Dick and Lissa Merrill represent a shining example of how loyalty of giving matters as much as the size of giving. The Merrills moved to Charlottesville in 1969 when Dick was asked to join the University of Virginia Law School faculty. Twenty years later Dick was appointed to the VFH Board by then-Governor Baliles and they have been supporting VFH every year since—now 24 years.
Dick admitted to being a little surprised by his VFH appointment because at the time he had been serving on the Board of the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, not exactly known for its humanities work. Fondly he remembers his VFH Board service as an impressive experience filled with the highest quality people. “There was such diversity on that Board that it made having any pre-determined views on which projects to award grants impossible—there would always be such intelligent and diverse discussion with each decision.”
“VFH was a very different place back in the late 80s, much smaller and primarily focused on giving grants to Virginia institutions, before the Book Festival and the (VFH) Radio programs were around,” noted the Merrills. When asked to choose their favorite VFH program they agreed, “Folklife and the Folklife Showcase because of the diversity of skills being highlighted.” Both are also avid Book Festival Luncheon attendees and have attended most of the last 19 years.
Dick and Lissa recollect that humanities, in particular books, were a part of their lives at a very early age and then later when both majored in history in college. Now retired, they both enjoy traveling around Virginia to historical sites large and small. “We love Virginia; it has everything, deep history, mountains, and coastline!” They keep busy playing golf at Charlottesville’s Birdwood course. They have two children, a daughter in Richmond and a son in Connecticut. Their three grandchildren, who get grandparent attention monthly, as well as two corgis keep them on their toes.
We love Virginia; it has everything, deep history, mountains, and coastline!
The Merrills consistently support organizations that they believe in. Over time, they have lowered their priority of giving to national organizations and have focused more on local groups like Region Ten, the Charlottesville Free Clinic and the area’s AIDS Services Group. In addition, Lissa has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood, Learning Ally, and Children Youth and Family Services. Dick is the Daniel Caplin Professor of Law, Emeritus at the University of Virginia Law School and since 1991, he has been of counsel to Covington & Burling. Dick served on the board of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
VFH would like to thank the Merrills for their twenty-four years of support and enthusiasm.