A Brief History of Merrill College

The Merrill College Office during the early 1970's.

Charles E. Merrill Jr.

Charles E. Merrill Jr.Merrill was founded in 1968 as the fourth college at UCSC. The college takes its name from Charles E. Merrill Jr., former Headmaster of the Commonwealth School in Boston. In 1968, Merrill was the chairman of the Charles E. Merrill Trust, named for his father, Charles E. Merrill, Sr., the founder of the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch and Safeway Stores. It was in late 1967 that the Trust elected to donate $650,000 in partnership funds toward the construction of the hitherto-named College Four at Santa Cruz. "Of all our different investments, Merrill College was the most appealing and rewarding," Charles E. Merrill Jr. said during an April, 2003 visit to the college he helped make possible.


The San Francisco architectural firm Campbell and Wong designed the buildings at Merrill College. Most of the original structures were completed by 1970. The Crown-Merrill Apartments were added in 1986. The structures present three key features:  starkly modern and Scandinavian design, orientation around the redwood trees on the nine-acre site, and playfully historical components such as the bridges to the residential towers, balconies with lattice railings, and the bell tower above the Cultural Center. The college hosts a range of colors, rust red and off-white residence halls and prominent blue metal roofs for nearly every building.


From its early years, Merrill was a stimulating interdisciplinary environment with young faculty from widely diverse areas like history, sociology, literature, politics, anthropology and economics.

The founding faculty were keen that the college should focus on the "Third World," in the sense "...of newly emergent and re-emergent civilizations and cultures, especially those of hitherto oppressed, neglected, or under-privileged groups." These same founders declared likewise in the 1969-70 Merrill College Working Handbook, that "the poverty of two thirds of the world's people will be a primary concern of Merrill College...we will be equally concerned with related problems our society shares with the world: prejudice, alienation, and mismanagement of power, environment, and human rights."

Merrill's 40th Anniversary: Honoring the Past, Building the Future

A History of Merrill College by former Provost Lourdes Martínez-Echazábal

Looking Forward From 50 - Merrill College


Peace Pole

Merrill Provosts

Philip Bell  1968–1972
John Marcum   1972–1977
Michael Cowan  1978-1979
George von der Muhll  1979-1981
Ralph Guzman  1982-1984
John Isbister   1984–1999
John Schechter  1999–2005
Lourdes Martinez-Echazabal  2005–2011
M. Kathy Foley  2011–2012
Elizabeth S. Abrams  2012-Present

Provosts split the governance of the college with the Senior Director of College Student Life, with provosts in charge of the academic offerings of the college, alumni outreach, and, to some extent, development (fundraising), with the Senior Director of College Student Life in charge of everything else (residential life, housing, non-academic programming).

The current provost, Elizabeth Abrams, is head of the course for Core, the Challenge Program, and Classroom Connection. She facilitates the Merrill Undergraduate Research Mentorships and Student Project Funds. She develops or facilitates new programming such as the Pescadero branch of Classroom Connection and Focus on Africa (a course series new in 2015). The provost works with alumni, staff, students, and faculty to bring alumni back to campus to support the college and its programs.

The Merrill provost house was built to house the college provost and their family, serving as a homier space where public and college-related functions take place. Various units on campus use the house for receptions, parties, meetings, etc. Students come to some of these events, and for special dinners, receptions and celebrations. Community members can also rent the various public spaces available at Merrill College for events.