Professor Emeritus Melvin Merken, Ed.D., retired from WSU in 2010 after 52 years of exemplary service. On Sunday, May 6, 2012 from 3 to 5pm, the University will celebrate his legacy at the 18th Annual Scholarship Tea. Merken is fondly remembered as a dynamic science professor, exceptional scholar, and effective leader within the WSU community.
Merken joined Worcester State Teachers College’s Chemistry Department in 1958 following several years as a high school science teacher. A graduate of Tufts University, he was named a full professor in 1967 after earning a doctorate from Boston University. Over the years, he served as chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics, Department of Chemistry, and Department of Natural and Earth Sciences. In addition, Merken chaired WSU’s Curriculum Committee for 30 years. In that capacity, he was intimately involved in the development of many University programs.
Merken’s passion for teaching was matched by his passion for scholarship. He published two textbooks, including the hugely successful Physical Science with Modern Applications. The book went through five editions and was purchased by 300,000 students across the country. He also received National Science Foundation grants toward studies at Dartmouth College, Tufts University, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas and pursued advanced courses at Mount Holyoke College and Harvard University.
He is a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Chemists and a member of a number of professional organizations. He received an Educator of the Year Award from the Central Mass. Chapter, Phi Delta Kappa in 2002, the Commonwealth Citation for Outstanding Performance in 1989 and 1996, and the Distinguished Service Award from Worcester State in 1980, 1984, and 1988.
Merken graduated from Peabody High School in 1944, where he delivered a commencement address wearing a U.S. Army uniform. He enlisted in the Army on his 17th birthday and served with the 21st Regiment of the 24th Division, which was stationed in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He served as a rifleman, personnel clerk, and medical surgical technician and passed through Hiroshima several weeks after it became the first city in history to be hit with an atomic bomb. He is a life member of the 24th Division Association.
Merken and his wife, Shirley Stahl Merken ’96—to whom he became engaged just two weeks after they met on a blind date in 1956—raised their three children in a house within walking distance of WSU. They demonstrated their ongoing commitment to the University’s students by establishing two scholarships: the “Dr. Melvin and Shirley Stahl Merken Two Cultures Scholarship” and the “Arlyn Stahl Berlin Scholarship.”
Merken—who as mace-bearer led the processions at every WSU academic convocation for 14 years—said on his retirement, “After 52 years, I could sincerely say that I loved what I did and never regretted that I did not retire sooner.”
The Scholarship Tea recognizes outstanding citizens whose work stimulates the vitality, health, and success of their communities. The Tea has played a long and honorable role in the history of the University, with the first being held in 1942. Over the years, the Tea has remained a direct link to the Worcester State of the past and serving as both guide and inspiration to the greatly enhanced scholarship program of today. Held annually in May, the formal event features a traditional tea and honors a notable member of the community. Past honorees have included Esther Forbes, Olive Higgins Prouty and John Higgins, to name just a few from the early years and, some of our more recent, George W. Tetler III, Esq., James and Maryanne Kenary, Leonard Morse, M.D., Stasia Hovenesian, Edwin “Ted” Coghlin Jr., James Morrison, M.D., Stephen Pezzella, M.D., Andrea Pezzella, M.D., author Nicholas Gage, Drs. Arthur and Martha Pappas, and many others who have contributed so much to Worcester and its fine institutions. Since its rebirth 18 years ago, the Scholarship Tea has contributed nearly $180,000 to the scholarship program at Worcester State.
To attend, please contact the Alumni Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-972-2586.