Eric Merrill is a real hero

 In News, News Releases
Board chair cited for his dedication to volunteerism

Eric Merrill dropped out of college in his junior year after struggling to focus on his studies. It was 10 years before he re-enrolled at Lane Community College, then to University of Oregon to finish his degree. As it turned out, that bachelor’s degree changed the trajectory of his life.

Merrill  went on to have numerous successes in business, including multiple years as a corporate executive. Knowing that his education formed the foundation of his success, the retired Waste Connections executive and his wife, Jeanne Caswell, became ardent supporters of higher education in their community.

Eric Merrill, Evans Kaame, Paul Speer and Jeanne Caswell at a 2019 scholarship reception.

Foundation Board Chair Eric Merrill, Clark alumnus Evans Kaame, Board of Trustee Paul Speer, and Jeanne Caswell, Merrill’s wife, at a 2019 scholarship reception. Merrill is a 2020 Real Hero award winner.

“Education helps people to better their lives and their circumstances. We believe that we need to do everything we can to support our youth to get the training they need to build a better community tomorrow than we have today,” said Merrill.

Now he’s being recognized for his efforts.

Identity Clark County‘s Learn Here Project, in its seventh year, honored Merrill and nearly three dozen others in the region for their work and volunteerism in 2020.  The Learn Here Project showcases quality educational systems and honors exemplary staff and volunteers. It is part of the Land Here, Live Here business growth initiative created and coordinated by Identity Clark County, a nonprofit business leaders’ group.

Merrill is part of a stellar list of what the project calls Real Heros. Heather Adams, Clark’s assistant director of student care and conduct, is also a recipient. Read more about each of the 2020 winners here.

Merrill is in his second year of a two-year term as chair of Clark College Foundation’s Board of Directors. He’s been a part of the board since 2015 and has also served as vice chair. He successfully steered the foundation during its Promising Pathways fundraising campaign, an historic $35 million effort for Clark College. The campaign is raising funds for scholarships, major initiatives and programs at Clark College. With one year to go in this five-year effort, the self-governed nonprofit has raised $27 million and welcomed more than 4,700 donors. Merrill’s expert leadership enables the foundation to engage with community members at the highest level of support for education.

“Clark College is the primary institution of higher learning in our community. The foundation supports the mission and students of the college. Jeanne and I believe in the mission and purpose of the foundation,” said Merrill.

He has guided a 14-member board of directors during the challenges of a global pandemic while the foundation raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for emergency needs like housing and food, in addition to major gifts for future needs. Merrill’s attention has also been directed toward keeping the foundation financially stable and its staff employed.

As a result of his work and the dedication of the foundation’s board members and staff, the nonprofit is one of the top education fundraising shops in the nation. Earlier this year, the foundation received two prestigious national educational fundraising awards for overall performance and improvement from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Click here to watch as Sean Philbrook, from Identity Clark County, speaks about Merrill’s outstanding volunteerism starting at 7:19 in the video.

Eric Merrill is a 2020 Real Hero award winner.

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Sharif Burdzik is a foundation board member. Photo by Aevum Images