Remembering former President Merwin
Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Updated: Sunday, May 22, 2011 19:05
The university will hold a service on Monday, May 23 to celebrate the life and accomplishments of former President Bill Merwin, who passed away on May 6 after a lengthy illness. The program will be held at 2 p.m. in Alico Arena, and the community is invited to join FGCU students, faculty and staff for this special occasion.
"Members of Dr. Merwin's family will be in attendance at this opportunity for the University community to pay tribute to his years as FGCU's president from 1999 to 2007, and to recognize his important legacy in the life of the University," read the press release.
Merwin, played an integral role in helping FGCU develop into the thriving and rapidly expanding university that it is today.
Merwin, 71, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees. After receiving a Fulbright Scholarship in Japan in 1966, he received his doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1971.
Merwin was the second president of FGCU, following Roy McTarnaghan. He was chosen by the Board of Regents in 1999 and served until his resignation in 2007.
Before his presidency at FGCU, Merwin held three other university presidencies: Salisbury State University from 1997 to 1999, State University of New York-Pottsdam from 1989 to 1997, and Montana State University-Northern from 1985 to 1989. He also served as president of the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities in 2003.
"Along with Executive Assistant to the President Barbara Krell, I've had the opportunity since 1993 to work in my present capacity for all of FGCU's presidents since the beginning, including President Merwin from his first day in 1999 to his last day in 2007," said Susan Evans, FGCU chief of staff and university spokeswoman. "He was a dynamic leader with an extraordinary ability to energize support for FGCU, and he leaves an important legacy in the history of our university."
Upon becoming the president of FGCU, Merwin declared that his mission was to establish three things for the university: on-campus housing, high-quality academic programs, and an athletics department.
In addition to meeting each of these goals, there were many other landmark indicators of the growth that FGCU underwent during Merwin's time leading the university. The number of students enrolled at FGCU increased from 3,284 to 8,309, the percentage of students attending full-time rose from 46% to 73%, the number of buildings on campus rose from 24 to 71, the annual operating budget rose from $52 million to $110 million, and the university received $175 million in private gifts and donations to support many diverse aspects of FGCU's development.
Merwin was also renowned for helping to establish a much greater sense of school spirit at FGCU through creating solid sports programs.
"When he started as president of FGCU, we had been open for only two years, and by the time he retired in 2007, the university had grown tremendously in all areas, including student enrollment, campus buildings, donor gifts, athletics, and student housing," said Evans.
Merwin, described as a history buff and avid reader, is survived by his three sons, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, a sister, a brother, and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services were held on May 9 in Jacksonville, where Merwin passed away. FGCU will honor Merwin on campus at a later date.