The Merrill Presidential Scholars Program at Cornell was created by Philip Merrill A&S ’55. Mr. Merrill, who passed away in 2006, was a devoted alumnus and an accomplished publisher, diplomat, civic leader, and philanthropist. He was known for his passion for sound journalism and international affairs. In 1968 he purchased Capital Gazette Newspapers and led the company through five decades while more than tripling its newspapers’ circulation.
Over that same period, he maintained a vigorous commitment to public service, giving generously of his time and talents as a diplomat and financial advisor for six administrations of the federal government. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as president and chair of the nation’s Export-Import Bank, a position he held from 2002 to 2005. He also served as assistant secretary-general of NATO, as special assistant to the deputy secretary of state, and as a member of the Department of Defense Policy Board.
Philip Merrill served as a trustee fellow of Cornell from 1992–1996. In 2003, he was named a presidential councillor, the highest honor the university can bestow. A generous benefactor, he strove to honor excellent teaching and enhance the quality of undergraduate studies. He considered his establishment and ongoing support of the Merrill Presidential Scholars Program to be among his greatest accomplishments at Cornell.
Philip Merrill was also a dedicated sailor and supporter of the Cornell Sailing Team. In 2009, Cornell dedicated the Merrill Family Sailing Center, a spectacular facility for Cornell’s sailors made possible by gifts from Philip Merrill and his wife, Eleanor Merrill, and their children Douglas Merrill ’89, MBA ’91, Catherine Merrill Williams ’91, and Nancy Merrill ’96.