Death of Former FGCU President William C. Merwin
FORT MYERS, FL - Former Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) President William C. "Bill" Merwin, 71, died yesterday (May 6) in Jacksonville after a lengthy illness. He was born on June 25, 1939 in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
President Bill Merwin was Florida Gulf Coast University's second president, selected by the Board of Regents in 1999, and retiring in 2007. His leadership in developing the young state university that opened in 1997 cannot be overstated, and countless FGCU programs and buildings carry his legacy.
During the years of Dr. Merwin's presidency, Florida Gulf Coast University saw growth in enrollment from 3,284 to 8,309 students; the percentage of students attending full time from 46% to 73%; the annual operating budget from $52 million to $110 million, and the number of campus buildings from 24 to 71. While he was president of FGCU, $175 million in private gifts and donations was raised for support of every University aspect from academics to students to athletics to campus buildings. President Merwin also is credited with growing student housing on campus, taking the intercollegiate athletics program from its infancy to NCAA Division I, and adding many new degree programs including engineering and music.
"Florida Gulf Coast University in 2011 is light years ahead of where it would be today without the leadership of Bill Merwin," said Florida Gulf Coast University President Wilson G. Bradshaw. "Bill served as president of FGCU during a time of unparalleled growth and development, and he will be fondly remembered as a dynamic leader whose vision and many accomplishments significantly advanced our university."
"His unwavering belief in the power of education was at the core of his contagious enthusiasm for FGCU, and he was greatly admired by students, faculty, staff, donors, elected officials, and community friends," said President Bradshaw. "We are profoundly saddened by his passing, and also extremely proud of his legacy that always will be a part of Florida Gulf Coast University."
Prior to Florida Gulf Coast University, Dr. Merwin held three university presidencies: Salisbury State University (1997 - 1999), State University of New York - Pottsdam (1989 - 1997), and "Montana State University - Northern" 1985 - 1989). Dr. Merwin earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, which in 2000 awarded him its highest honor as recipient of the Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumnus Award. Following a Fulbright Scholarship in Japan in 1966, he earned a doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1971. Dr. Merwin was a member of the faculty in the early years of University of North Florida in Jacksonville, and later advanced there to Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Dr. Merwin is survived by his three sons John (Margie), Michael (Donna), and William Jr. (Netta), as well as seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, sister, brother, and several nieces and nephews.
Services will be held on Monday, May 9 at 11 a.m. at Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home, located at 11801 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32223, (904-288-5694). Anyone wishing to make a gift in President Merwin's memory may donate to Community Hospice Foundation, 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville, FL 32257. Condolences may be sent to the family in care of Mr. and Mrs. William Merwin Jr., 1422 Mallard Landing Blvd., St. Johns, FL 32259. Florida Gulf Coast University will honor President Merwin on campus at a later date.