Secretary wills $73,000 to assist Fairfield University students


A secretary who served three presidents at Fairfield University bequeathed $73,000 to the university for a scholarship to assist students with financial needs. Virginia Merritt served as secretary to three Jesuits presidents: the Revs. William McInnes, S.J., Thomas Fitzgerald, S.J., and Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. from 1970 to 1981, and died in 1996. Through her will, she established the Charles J. Merritt Jr. and Virginia B. Merritt Scholarship Fund.

This is the second scholarship established in the past year through a bequest from a former secretary at Fairfield University. Last year, the University received $125,000 from the estate of Mrs. Mae Ferracane who worked in the Psychology Department and wanted to help "needy and deserving students."

Stephen Jakab, associate vice president for administration, noted that the gifts from the two secretaries "reflect the sense of many that the Fairfield University community is a family. It is not uncommon for members of this community to feel deeply dedicated to Fairfield University's mission of providing an education that develops social responsibility and, therefore, do what they can in many different ways to support our goals."

Before coming to Fairfield University, Mrs. Merritt was employed in the federal government and served as secretary in the Pentagon for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later as a secretary for the military staff of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations. Later, moving to Fairfield, she and her late husband operated the Merritt Book Store on the Post Road.

The Fairfield University presidents remembered her fondly. Father McInnes recalled her as "indispensable" and "her sense of humor."

Father Fitzgerald said, "She was an elegant, kindly lady." For 19 years after he left Fairfield, they continued to exchange Christmas cards.

Father Kelley, the current president, cited her as "an outstanding person who cared about the University and its students."

Yvette Skutel, a former secretary in the University's Development Office, who was a friend of Mrs. Merritt and co-executor of her estate, said, "She was always interested in young people. She was especially concerned about those who could not afford to go to college and wanted to help."

Commenting on the gift, James Reilly, director of planned giving, said, "It was thoughtful of Mrs. Merritt to plan ahead in order to help the University and its students. Making a bequest through a will is an effective way to assist future generations."

Information on bequests to the University is available from the Office of Planned Giving, ext. 2510.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 1, 1998