A 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."