Dr. Richard Merriman Named 12th President of the University of Mount Union

December 17, 2014

Richard MerrimanALLIANCE, Ohio – Dr. W. Richard Merriman Jr., president of Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, has been named the 12th president of the University of Mount Union, announced Randall Hunt, chair of the Mount Union Board of Trustees and Allen Green, chair of the Presidential Search Committee. The appointment, which concludes a six-month nationwide search, comes upon unanimous decision of trustees during a special meeting of the Board last Friday.

Merriman, who has served in his current capacity at Southwestern College since 1998, will succeed Dr. Richard F. Giese, who announced his intention to step down as president this past January at the conclusion of his contract in June, 2015. After a successful 10-year tenure, he and his wife, Sandra, look forward to relocating to Virginia to enjoy quality time with their son, daughter-in-law and grandsons.

“I am certain Dr. Merriman is the right leader for Mount Union at this time in our history,” said Green. “He brings with him the necessary experience to build upon the incredible foundation that has been built under Dr. Giese’s direction and further guide the University into the future. He has a keen understanding of the institution’s strengths and challenges and a proven track record of innovation and success. We are pleased to welcome someone of his caliber to the Mount Union community.”

Merriman will begin his official duties as president of Mount Union on July 1, 2015.

“The commitment and great spirit of the Mount Union community were very evident to my wife, Margot, and me during our visit,” said Merriman. “When a job interview is fun and energizing, that signals that you're at an exceptional place, and we really felt that at Mount Union. The innovative curriculum that balances a strong foundation in the liberal arts with career-focused instruction, the quality and appearance of Mount Union's facilities and grounds, its growing enrollment, the quality of its faculty and staff and the enthusiasm and affection for the University expressed by its students all signify that Mount Union has had extraordinary leadership from President Giese and the Board of Trustees. 

“There is no way to learn about a university except to dive in, begin meeting its people, and learn about both its strengths and the challenges it faces,” Merriman continued. “I'm looking forward to those opportunities for discussion, learning and engagement with the University’s trustees, faculty, administrators, staff and students when I begin my time at Mount Union. It's also clear that the University has a great partnership with the community of Alliance, and I'm looking forward to maintaining those strong, cooperative ties.”

During his service at Southwestern, a private, United Methodist Church affiliated institution of about 1,700 students, Merriman has guided the college through years of unprecedented growth in scope and mission. Southwestern has become a strong comprehensive institution, serving both traditional-aged students and adults, offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degrees and providing instruction in a range of formats that meet the needs of many kinds of students. Growth has come in the form of a professional studies program aimed at working adults and a transition to online offerings.

In addition, Merriman led two capital campaigns and several project-specific fund drives that raised more than $50 million for college projects. This led to a number of campus improvements including a new stadium and performing arts center as well as renovations to the library, among other improvements. In addition, Merriman worked to foster cooperative relationships between the college and the Winfield community.

A native of Kansas, Merriman earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social science from Emporia State University and a Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University. Prior to his post at Southwestern, he was part of the advancement team at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, rising to the position of vice president for institutional advancement. He also taught courses in American politics at Berea College in Kentucky and served as executive director of the Jefferson Foundation and a program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities, both in Washington, DC. 

Merriman is a member of numerous professional and community organizations including the Presidential Advisory Committee of the Kansas Chapter of Women in Higher Education and College Presidents Council of Visioneering Wichita. He has also served on the National Steering Committee of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and as chair of the Executive Board of Kansas Campus Compact in addition to serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the Cowley County Economic Development Association and the Bishop’s Working Group on Mission and Ministry Funding of the Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church. He has also volunteered his time in the community, delivering lunches for Winfield Friendship meals for a number of years.

In addition, his scholarly work has been published in highly-regarded journals as well as in professional publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education. He has also been invited to address educational societies on a variety of topics related to higher education.

Merriman and his wife, Margot Kelman, who holds a Ph.D. in communication sciences and disorders and is in private practice as a speech-language pathologist, are the parents of two sons. Ben is married to Sarah Wilson and is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Aaron is a senior in high school.

“As Sandy and I prepare for our departure from this great University, it brings us comfort to know that we are leaving Mount Union in the very capable hands or our faculty members, trustees, administrators, staff and our new president,” said Giese. “I am confident in Dr. Merriman’s ability to lead the University into the next decade – to build upon the institution’s current position of strength to ensure an even brighter future for Mount Union and our students. We wish him and his family well in this new endeavor and look forward to seeing all that the institution will accomplish under his guidance in the years to come.”

“The successful conclusion of this process, resulting in the appointment of Dr. Merriman, would not have been possible without the dedicated work of the Presidential Search Committee Chair Allen Green and the trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students who so diligently served as members of the committee,” said Hunt. “Their participation, as well as involvement and feedback provided by the campus community at large, were invaluable as the committee took on the very important task of searching for Mount Union’s next president. There’s no doubt, though, that the hard work was well worth the effort. As a result, it is my belief that the institution’s legacy of strong and effective leadership will continue with Dr. Merriman at the helm.”

To The Top!