William Charles "Bill" Merwin, Salisbury University president, dies

Educator later became a consultant

  • Dr. William Merwin
Dr. William Merwin
May 15, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

William Charles "Bill" Merwin, who had been president of Salisbury University and later became a consultant, died May 6 from complications of an infection at a Jacksonville, Fla., nursing home. He was 71.

The son of an accountant and a homemaker, Dr. Merwin was born and raised in Lacrosse, Wis., where he graduated in 1957 from Aquinas High School.

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history and secondary education from the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse.

Dr. Merwin was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and studied in Japan. He taught at Onalaska High School and later at Western Salem High School in Wisconsin, where he was assistant basketball coach.

After earning his doctorate in 1971 from the University of Georgia, he began his higher education career two years later at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He later was promoted to provost and vice president of academic affairs.

In 1985, Dr. Merwin was named president of Northern Montana College in Havre, Mont., and four years later became president of the State University of New York at Potsdam.

He was president of Salisbury University from 1996 to 1999, where he played an instrumental role in the planning and funding of Henson Science Hall.

In a statement, current Salisbury President Janet Dudley-Esbach said that Dr. Merwin was "an enthusiastic ambassador for higher education" and a "champion of undergraduate research" who hosted the university's first National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

She added: "He was committed to inclusiveness, and among his gifts was a remarkable capacity for remembering people's names and making them feel welcomed and valued."

His other accomplishments at Salisbury included the university's completing a $13 million capital campaign, establishing the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, launching a community access television station and expanding new academic programs.

He also oversaw the endowment of the Samuel and Marilyn C. Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies.

After leaving Salisbury, he served as president of Florida Gulf Coast University until retiring in 2007. From 2009 until his death, Dr. Merwin was a consultant with Hodges University in Fort Myers, Fla., helping develop a planned- or deferred-giving program.

A history buff, Dr. Merwin was also an Atlanta Braves and Green Bay Packers fan.

Services were May 9 in Jacksonville.

Surviving are three sons, William C. Merwin Jr. and Michael Merwin, both of Jacksonville, and John Merwin of Orlando, Fla.; a brother, Robert Merwin of Northern California; a sister, Donna Collins of Whitefish, Mont.; seven grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. Marriages to the former Patricia Byrne and Deborah Davis ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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