SEMO foundation gets $4 million gift

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Southeast Missouri natives and education supporters have given one of the biggest gifts in Southeast Missouri State University history.

Christene Merick of Catron, Mo., left her family estate, valued at $4 million, to the university foundation, Southeast announced recently.

"This extremely generous gift from Christene Merick's estate will help provide the means for Southeast to help meet the educational needs of our students, both today and tomorrow," said Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins in a statement.

Bill Holland, vice president of university advancement and executive director of the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, said the gift was mostly land in Catron that has since been sold.

Holland said the university is still mulling over what to do with the money, a decision that will be made by Dobbins and the board of regents.

"A generous gift like this, you owe stewardship," Holland said. He said Merick died more than a year ago and planned to give the estate to the university.

Merick and her husband, William, began their teaching careers in one-room schoolhouses. She was born near Parma, Mo., and he was born near Morehouse, Mo., according to a university news release.

William Merick, a 1935 graduate of Southeast, played in the first football game at Houck Stadium. He worked in education for 30 years as a coach and teacher and once worked for the Chaffee School District. He was also superintendent of Bernie, Mo., and Parma school districts. He retired and began farming in 1972.

Christene Merick also taught in the Bernie School District. She retired in 1957 but continued teaching part time. The couple donated annually to the university foundation starting in 1978. They also supported athletic and agricultural programs.

When he died in 1988, William Merick had bought more than 2,200 acres of farmland, said his son, Tom Merick, in a university statement.

"Every time I turned around, I would find him telling a story to help educate someone," Tom Merick said. "My parents' hope, as well as my own, is for the good of many to help better our future and the future of those to come."


Pertinent address:

One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

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