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Merrill Presidential Scholars Program

Merrill Presidential Scholars Program

Since 1988, the Merrill Presidential Scholars Program has honored Cornell University’s most outstanding graduating seniors, while also recognizing the teachers who have played a significant role in ensuring their success. This unique program was created by the late Philip Merrill ’55 and is made possible through annual support from the Merrill Family Foundation. Cornell University is grateful to the Merrill family—Eleanor Merrill, Douglas Merrill ’89, MEng '90, MBA ’91, Catherine Merrill ’91, and Nancy Merrill Sullivan ’96—for their continued commitment to the Merrill Presidential Scholars program.

Each scholar is given an opportunity to recognize the high school teacher who most inspired their scholastic development and the Cornell faculty member who most significantly contributed to their college experience.

Each spring, the scholars, along with their high school teachers and Cornell professors, are honored at a convocation hosted by Cornell’s president.

Congratulations to the 43 2023 Merrill Presidential Scholars.

The 2023 Merrill Presidential Scholars: 

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 

  • Lauren Cody 
  • Bryce Demopoulos 
  • Maria DiGiovanni 
  • Soojin Kim
  • Naomi Schulberg 
  • Abraham Sinfort 
  • Phillip Teixeira DaSilva 
  • Jingyi (Cheryl) Wang 

College of Architecture, Art and Planning 

  • Andrew Boghossian 

College of Arts and Sciences 

  • Victoria Alkin 
  • Jacqueline Allen 
  • Anna Asch 
  • Jeffrey Backus 
  • Matthew Flics 
  • Meghana Gavirneni 
  • Prameela Kottapalli 
  • Caitlin McCabe 
  • Nina Suss 

Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science 

  • Somil Aggarwal 
  • Oluwatise Alatise 
  • Luis Hoderlein 
  • Kaya Ito Alpturer 
  • Anya Ji 
  • Sahar Sami 
  • Adele Smolansky 
  • Fangcong Yin  

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management 

  • Anushya Alandur 
  • Aleksandra Chechkina 
  • Camden Wiseman 

Cornell Engineering

  • Julia Allen 
  • Molly Eron 
  • Courtney Golden 
  • Feifei Long 
  • Ryan Schanta 

Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration 

  • Elin Antonsson 
  • Melanie Goricanec 
  • Emily Michaels 

College of Human Ecology 

  • Megan Cabaero 
  • Cynthia Wan 

ILR School

  • Yasmin Ballew 
  • Anna Bugayong 
  • Libby Willkomm 

Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy 

  • Charles Mann 

About Phillip Merrill

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, MEng '90, MBA ’91, Catherine Merrill ’91, and Nancy Merrill Sullivan ’96.


Honoring Teachers through Scholarships for Students

Established in 1989, STAR (Special Teachers Are Recognized) Scholarships celebrate the influential role high school teachers play in the success of Cornell’s Merrill Presidential Scholars. Scholarships will be named in honor of the outstanding teachers recognized by the Merrill Presidential Scholars and will be awarded to Cornell students with financial need from the scholar’s high school or hometown. The late Donald Berens ’47 and his wife, Margi Berens ’47, conceived of and sponsored the STAR program. Additional support comes from the William Knox Holt Foundation through the assistance of George Malti ’61, JD ’63, a director of the foundation, and the Cornell Alumni Association of Central New York.

For more information about the Merrill Presidential Scholars Program, Phillip Merrill, , the STAR Program, or past Merrill Scholars, contact:

Sue Parker
311 Day Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-8201
(607) 255-7595