Ohio Wesleyan University President Rock Jones announces an $8 million gift to restore Merrick Hall, which has been closed for more than 25 years. The contribution is the largest single outright gift in OWU history. With Jones is Chris Wolverton, professor of botany-microbiology and chair of the Faculty Committee on University Governance. (Photo by Matt Wasserman ’14)

Ohio Wesleyan Receives $8 Million Gift to Restore Merrick Hall

By Cole Hatcher

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University today announced the receipt of an $8 million gift from an alumni couple to fund the restoration of Merrick Hall, an academic building closed more than 25 years ago. The contribution represents the largest single outright gift in the university’s 171-year history.

The restored building, expected to reopen in 2015, will house elements of the OWU Connection curricular initiative as well as classroom and event space. The donors have asked to remain anonymous.

When Merrick Hall opened in 1873, it was devoted to the study of science and was among the earliest U.S. college buildings built for such a single purpose, said President Rock Jones, Ph.D.

“From the beginning, Merrick Hall demonstrated Ohio Wesleyan’s commitment to a cutting-edge curriculum,” Jones said. “Recently, the Ohio Wesleyan faculty has moved to refresh the curriculum in ways that are as important to our time as was the introduction of science in the 19th century. The OWU Connection is a bold, innovative initiative designed to enrich an Ohio Wesleyan education with opportunities to connect theory to practice in a global context.

“With the OWU Connection, the campus has charted a new course for undergraduate liberal arts education,” Jones continued. “The initiative includes new occasions for interdisciplinary learning, for linking classroom learning with real-world experience, for significantly increasing international opportunities for our students, and for creating important bridges between curricular and co-curricular learning at Ohio Wesleyan. The development of the OWU Connection provides the ideal opportunity for the restoration of Merrick Hall, and we are grateful to the donors for embracing this important purpose and vision.”

Jones said while the first floor of the three-story building will be devoted to the OWU Connection, the second floor will feature state-of-the-art classrooms and seminar spaces with the technology needed to support 21st century teaching and learning. The existing stadium-style seating will provide a link to the building’s impressive history.

The third floor of Merrick Hall will become “the most elegant space on campus,” Jones said, featuring a soaring ceiling, gothic arches, and large windows that overlook the academic campus and City of Delaware. “We anticipate the space serving as a board room, as a location for faculty meetings, and as an entertainment venue for a variety of receptions, celebrations, lectures, poetry readings, dinners, and other gatherings, both formal and informal.”

The space utilization plan for the interior of the 19,684-square-foot building was created with input from the entire campus community, said Jones, who appointed a taskforce to solicit and evaluate proposals. In addition to the interior renovations, Merrick Hall’s exterior also may be updated to add a south-side patio. The addition would serve as a backdrop for Ohio Wesleyan’s annual commencement ceremony and other activities, including the Central Ohio Symphony’s annual 4th of July concert, which attracts as many as 10,000 spectators each year.

Merrick Hall is named in honor of Frederick Merrick, Ohio Wesleyan’s second president, who served the university from 1860 to 1873. The building is made of Delaware blue limestone and its Greek revival architectural style has been described as “Eclectic Elizabethan.” Merrick Hall is one of 11 locations on the Ohio Wesleyan campus on the National Register of Historic Places.

The timetable for the renovation still is being finalized, Jones said, but the university anticipates construction beginning in February 2014 and lasting for approximately 12 months. As with all new construction and renovation projects, Ohio Wesleyan is committed to using sustainable, environmentally friendly building materials.

Although the project’s donors have chosen to remain anonymous, the couple met at Ohio Wesleyan and are grateful for their OWU experiences.

“Ohio Wesleyan has created quite a vision with its commitment to preparing students for global citizenship and leadership,” the donors said. “We are pleased that we are able to give back to a university that has given us so much – including each other. We can’t wait to see the renovation come to fruition and to see how students incorporate the new building and its technology into their OWU experiences.”

Watch the webstream of the gift announcement at owu.edu/stream or read the remarks given by Jones, faculty member Chris Wolverton, Ph.D., and student Aara Ramesh ’14. Learn more about giving to the university at owu.edu/waystogive.

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities. Ohio Wesleyan offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, sequences, and courses of study, and 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. OWU combines an internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that connect classroom theory with real-world practice. Located in Delaware, Ohio, OWU’s 1,850 students represent 41 states and 45 countries. The university is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at www.owu.edu.