Dr Webster Merrifield

Dr Webster Merrifield

Williamsville, Windham County, Vermont, USA
Death Jan 1916 (aged 63)
Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Altadena, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Royal Oak
Memorial ID 55860989 · View Source
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Dr. Webster Merrifield was born in 1852 in Windham County, Vermont and grew up in Vermont and graduated from Yale in New Haven, CT in 1877. For the next two years, he taught in a private school at Newburgh, NY, and then spent the next four years as a Greek and Latin tutor at Yale. He moved to Dakota Territory in 1883 to fill the chair of Latin and Greek at the newly established University of North Dakota located in Grand Forks, ND, where he also taught Literature and Political Science. He was Secretary of the Faculty, the University's first Librarian, and a driving force behind adopting a liberal arts curriculum rather than offering a more practical education.

UND's early years were particularly difficult, as they were for all the state's schools. The state had taken on too many costly institutions without enough people to support the tax base needed to fund them. In 1885, President William Blackburn was dismissed, and Merrifield was asked to take over. Instead, Merrifield found UND's second president, Homer Sprague, to take over. By 1891, Merrifield couldn't hold off the offer any longer and took over the position of president on June 17, 1891 which he held until 1909.

Merrifield faced the same challenges as his peers and predecessors – lack of money and resources. The territory was struggling toward statehood, there were political problems, and the economy was on the downturn. In 1894, an outbreak of typhoid fever paralyzed both the university and the city of Grand Forks. The following year, the governor refused to appropriate any money for UND, and it looked like it would have to close its doors.

The University of Montana saw an opportunity and tempted Merrifield to become its president and to bring his entire faculty along with him. The city of Grand Forks rallied, however, raising $26,000 and the teaching staff voted to accept a 25% pay cut.

During Merrifield's presidency, UND's system was reorganized and actually expanded. The School of Mines opened in 1897, and two years later the Law School opened. 1901 saw the creation of the College of Mining Engineering, and of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, and also the College of Liberal Arts and the Normal College (Teacher's College) took shape. In 1905, a two-year School of Medicine was established, and in 1906, Merrifield and the president of Wesley College, a private Methodist college, agreed to essentially share their resources with each other.

Merrifield also worked to develop and greatly improve curricular standards and graduation requirements for the state's many fledgling high schools. In fact, at his retirement, he was honored as the "father of secondary schools" in North Dakota. President Merrifield bestowed upon the University of North Dakota a legacy of academic excellence and leadership.

In reflecting upon Merrifield's leadership, Melvin A. Brannon, Dean of the UND Medical School stated: "His great cathedral monument is the University of North Dakota." In his honor, Merrifield Hall, which houses the Departments of History, English, Languages, and Religion/Philosophy, was named after him in 1930, and the Merrifield Competition was created in 1992. Both reflect Webster Merrifield's devotion to high academic standards and a quality education.

Webster Merrifield married Mrs. Elizabeth H. Bull of Newburgh, NY on June 26, 1902. She had three children from a previous marriage to George Bull, a partner in the Cream of Wheat Company: Bessie McBride Bull, Daniel F. Bull, and Clara S. Bull.

Dr. Merrifield died in his Pasadena, CA home in January, 1916.

(Compiled by contributor Truman Bratteli)

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  • Created by: Carolyn (Schmidt) Alves
  • Added: 4 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 55860989
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Webster Merrifield (27 Jul 1852–Jan 1916), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55860989, citing Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum, Altadena, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Carolyn (Schmidt) Alves (contributor 47198156) .