Since it was first opened in 1873, Merrick Hall has housed some of Ohio Wesleyan University’s leading academic programs, and it will continue to do so once it’s reopened in 2015.
The latest milestone toward the new chapter in its history came May 16 with a groundbreaking ceremony to officially start renovations funded by an anonymous $8 million alumni gift.
Once completed, Merrick will house the OWU Connection, a faculty-led curricular initiative to prepare students for global citizenship and leadership. The OWU Connection also recently received two generous contributions of its own – a $5 million gift from John F. Milligan and Kathryn Bradford Milligan, both ’83, and a $250,000 commitment from Thomas W. Palmer ’69 and his wife, Susan F. Palmer.
At the Merrick groundbreaking, speakers included President Rock Jones, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Thomas R. Tritton ’69, emeritus history professor Richard Smith, zoology professor Amy Downing, and 2014 Senior Class Vice President Aara Ramesh.
Merrick was envisioned within a decade of Ohio Wesleyan’s founding in 1842 as a building devoted to the study of science. At that time, few colleges integrated science in their curricula and very few had a building devoted to it.
While funding issues and the Civil War delayed its opening, Merrick went on to house one of the finest natural history museums in the state. It would go on to serve other purposes as additional buildings were built, but Merrick remained at the front of some of Ohio Wesleyan’s leading educational endeavors until it was closed nearly 30 years ago.
“When I arrived on campus six years ago, I saw this magnificent building – so gracious, so distinctive – crying out for the support that would bring it back to life,” Jones said.
Thanks to the anonymous donation, Merrick will continue to lead revolutionary education initiatives as home to the OWU Connection, which provides “ways for students to study across the disciplines the complex problems that demand solution from their generation,” Jones said.
It will house “that which gives the greatest distinction to the Ohio Wesleyan curriculum at this time” as did the science program of the 1870s.
“The building was gone but never forgotten, and now it returns to life,” Jones said.
Tritton praised the OWU Connection as “a very innovative curricular initiative that’s propelling the University’s pedagogy, now and in the future.”
In addition to the OWU Connection – on the first floor – Merrick also will house classrooms on the second floor and special events space on the third. The renovated building also will contain a time capsule created at the groundbreaking and intended to be opened in 100 years.