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ABAC Veterans Center to be named for Melvin Merrill

Albany Herald - 11/9/2021

Nov. 9—TIFTON — The Veterans Center at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will be named in honor of Melvin L. Merrill in a 3 p.m. ceremony on Thursday in the Carlton Center on the ABAC campus. The public is invited to attend.

Merrill served 29 years in the United States Army Reserve before he retired with the rank of Major in 1993. He also occupied an administrative position at ABAC for 42 years, first as Director of Development before moving on to other roles as Chief Development Officer, President of the ABAC Foundation Inc., and Director of Capital Planning.

"When President (David) Bridges informed me of this honor, it was a very humbling moment for me," Merrill said. "During my time with the U.S. Army, I learned a lot about life, a lot about people, and a lot about the world. The most important thing I learned is that you have to respect and honor individuals for who they are and what they do."

Merrill was instrumental in the design and construction of the ABAC Veterans Center, which is now located in the renovated Carlton Center. Its original location was in J. Lamar Branch Hall. Students who are veterans use the area as a place to study and relax, while acquainting themselves with others who also served in the military.

"Melvin was a difference maker during his military career and at ABAC," Bridges said. "He got things done. I don't think we could have pulled off the Historic Front of Campus project without him. I am pleased that the Veterans Center will be named in his honor."

The Historic Front of Campus project revitalized the original three buildings on campus: Tift Hall, Lewis Hall, and Herring Hall. The mammoth undertaking also involved a re-design of the front lawn and the area directly behind the three buildings.

"We had lost all our curb appeal," Merrill said. "Lewis Hall and Herring Hall had not been used since 1985. It was originally scheduled to be one project for $15.5 million, but it wound up taking five years and four bond issues because of the 'Great Recession' of 2008."

Honored in 2011 by the Georgia Education Advancement Council with its Lifetime Achievement Award, Merrill was recognized at that time for more than 8,600 ABAC constituents contributing approximately $23,540,000 in support of ABAC programs. He also was lauded for coordinating the ABAC Foundation's$52 million student housing project.

Merrill retired from ABAC in 2015 but continued to work as ABAC's Director of Capital Planning until 2020 on a part-time basis. Upon his retirement, he received the title of ABAC Foundation President Emeritus.

"I have always liked what I was doing," Merrill said. "It wasn't necessarily like a job. I enjoyed doing it."

When Merrill graduated from Berry College in 1964, he wanted to be a county extension agent back home in North Carolina. The United States Army had other plans. Merrill served six months of active duty and then committed to the Army Reserve program for 29 years until his retirement.

When his active duty at Fort Jackson, S.C., ended, Merrill returned to Berry to work in the development office for 14 years. During that time, he completed his MBA degree. Merrill began his ABAC career on July 1, 1978.

Named as the Arts Citizen of the Year in Tifton in 1997, Merrill also was selected for an Honorary State FFA degree in 2007 and as an Honorary Alumnus by the ABAC Alumni Association in 2009. Merrill is a member of the Tifton Rotary Club, and he and his wife, Anita, are members of First United Methodist Church.


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