The Forum

In Memoriam: Eleanor Merrill, 1933–2016

July 21, 2016

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni mourns the passing of Eleanor Merrill, a distinguished patron of higher education and a dynamic figure in Washington journalism. Mrs. Merrill had a remarkable record of service. As a supporter of higher education, she was a member of the Board of Trustees of Dickinson College, her alma mater; she also served on the founding Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism, which, after a generous gift from the Merrills, was renamed the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Mrs. Merrill was equally devoted to the institutions that advance community education and culture. She was a member of the boards of Ford’s Theatre; the Shakespeare Theatre; the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and the National Aquarium, and she was a member of the Department of Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.

Mrs. Merrill and her late husband, Philip Merrill, were devoted friends and supporters of ACTA: We remember them with gratitude. Mr. Merrill was a founding member of ACTA’s National Council and a close advisor of ACTA from 1995 until his death in 2006. (Among other crucial contributions, he was an early supporter of ACTA’s The Intelligent Donor’s Guide to College Giving, which continues to be integral to our core mission and impact.) ACTA commemorates him by presenting the Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education at the annual Merrill Award Gala Dinner; together with her daughters Catherine Merrill Williams and Nancy Merrill, Mrs. Merrill was a gracious presence on several of these occasions, including the 2007 Gala dinner. She is pictured above with Gertrude Himmelfarb, the 2007 Merrill Award recipient, at that year’s Gala.

The Merrills’ daughter, Cathy Merrill Williams, remains the publisher of the Washingtonian magazine that her parents led for several decades, and she continues her parents’ service to higher education as chair of the Board of Visitors at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. We will miss Eleanor Merrill, but with her contributions to the world of education and culture, she leaves behind a memory that is a blessing and an inspiration.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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