Chuck and Kay met in the second grade in Forest Grove, Oregon. They married in 1962; a year later Chuck earned bachelor’s degree in botany at OSU. As an undergraduate, he conducted summer research supported by grants from the National Science Foundation. It was a path Chuck thought would define his career.
The Merrills moved to Ithaca, New York, where Chuck began a master’s program in plant pathology at Cornell University while Kay taught elementary school. It was there that Chuck discovered his love of teaching and chose it over research. In the fall of 1966, he began his career as an instructor and then was promoted to professor, teaching science all the while at the State University of New York (SUNY) Cobleskill campus. Chuck was recognized with the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The Merrills’ two children, daughter Lisa and son Tony, were born there before the family moved back to Oregon in 1977 so Chuck could join his father in the land development business. Upon his father's death, he took over the family business and formed the Aloha Land and Cattle Company with the help of two business partners.
“Thanks to a booming economy in Washington County that lasted longer than we thought it would, we found ourselves in a positon to contribute to causes we were passionate about in ways that would really make a difference,” said Kay.
“We were really blessed by how easily we had our college education paid for,” said Kay reflecting back to her and Chuck’s college years.
In 1996, Kay and Chuck established the Merrill Family Foundation (MFF) with a single scholarship program at the SUNY-Cobleskill. Today it supports scholarship programs at SUNY-Delhi which began with seven scholarships in the late 1990s and has grown to more than 200 scholarships between both campuses. In 2004, the MFF established the OSU College of Science program which supports more science students than any other scholarship. To date, the Foundation has granted more than $1 million for 544 scholarship awards.
The Merrill Family Foundation has been the single most impactful scholarship in the College of Science.
In November, the College of Science will award the Merrill Family Foundation its 2017 Distinguished Service Award, recognizing distinguished service of alumni or friends of the College.
“It is such an honor to be recognized. I am really very humbled by all of this. We were fortunate to be born into families with strong support and love, and then to be so financially successful, giving back is just doing our part,” said Kay.
“We are delighted to accept this award on behalf of the Foundation, which has been a wonderful way to share a strong spirit of giving and service across generations, a tradition that continues through our family,” she added.