Philip (Phil) Merrill combined publishing and public service throughout his career. Merrill was the owner and publisher of The Capital newspaper in Annapolis, The Maryland Gazette, Washingtonian magazine and four other area newspapers. He served as an assistant secretary-general of NATO in Brussels, as special assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State and as a member of the Department of Defense Policy Board. He represented the U.S. in negotiations on the Law of the Sea Conference, the International Telecommunications Union and various disarmament and exchange agreements with the Soviet Union. He died in June 2006.

In 2001, Merrill and his wife Eleanor, donated $10 million to the University of Maryland for the journalism school and the school was renamed in his honor. The Merrill family has continued to play an active role in the school’s development, with Ellie serving as the long-time chair of the Board of Visitors (now as chair emeritus) and daughter Cathy assuming a seat on the board in 2007.

The gift, which Merrill wanted to have an immediate impact, went to endowing faculty chairs, graduate fellowships, equipment and outreach for the college. Merrill said he wanted his gift to help the college “achieve its goal of being the very best in the nation.”