You are on page 1of 1

THE REMArKEr | FrIDAY, MARCH 7, 2014

NEWS
m I C H A E L m E rr I L L 7 2

Page 7

T H E

m O N E y

issu E

The school would not thrive were it not for the tireless fund-raising efforts of its alums. One of the most active of these is Michael Merrill 72, a San Francisco-based interior designer who has made it his goal to raise more than $1 million to establish an endowed chair in honor of a beloved drama instructor. The ReMarkers Bradford Beck interviewed Merrill to see why he keeps giving back to his school:
How did you get into interior design? Our mother was fascinated with it. She was always emphasizing the importance of it and how it could elevate your daily experience, that beauty could really inspire you and that sort of thing. My older brother Fred Merrill 57 who also went to St. Marks, is also an interior designer in Dallas who specializes in restaurants and so I came from a background of it. This was after having been involved in the drama club at St. main teacher there. He took me under his wing, and he inspired me and led me and protected me, and he set high standards and never acted like they were high but just acted like they were normal. Because he had created the Fine Arts Department, I felt that his legacy had been overlooked and I thought it was important that we commemorate it. So I wanted something that could come to fruition while he was alive, so he could witness it. His real legacy was not just in his teaching but in this whole creating of this department of ne arts. He started symphony orchestra, a string ensemble, ceramics, he hired [Founders Teaching Chair] Mr. [Bill] Kysor, too. I thought his leadership and his vision needed to be commemorated and encouraged so that the next generation of people would carry that on, and the school should one, honor him and two, continue his tradition. Also, it was half a million dollars less to do a department chair and I felt that the department needed the extra attention, extra money and extra inspiration of his name. I understand you recently beneted greatly from your assocation with another alumnus. With the schools blessing I created this alumni group out in San Francisco and have been running it ever since. I think its called the Bay Area alumni group. So I run it with another guy named Dylan Parker. Dylan works in an architecture office, and one day he calls me up and says, I may have a job for you. I asked him what it was and he said, Well, its over in South Korea. Well its about 400 hundred homes and they are about 4,000 square feet a piece. So its over a million square feet. They need all the interior designed nished and they need all the furniture specialized. If youd like the job then its yours. So your St. Marks connection essentially got you the business? Yes, I asked what I had to do to be considered and he said, Well tell me what you want for a fee and come over and pick up the check. So thats what I did. That wouldve never happened if we hadnt been working on the alumni group together and known each through St. Marks. I was vetted just because I was another St. Marks alum. In many ways I was getting more than I was giving. What advice would you give to students about using school connections? Dont be as foolish as I was, and use your St. Marks connections as early on as you possibly can and as continuously as they present themselves. Dont wait like I did. I waited for 25 years before I used any of St. Marks connections. Use them immediately. You earned them and you paid for them. They are yours, why not use them? In giving to the people in your community, you will always get back, in my experience, as fast as I give. It just comes so quickly its hard to even describe. Also, sometimes if you listen carefully, something that appears to be a dead end or a negative can be a positive. I was told not to do a certain activity as a part of the alumni out here and then I held on to that idea, and one day I realized that I could use that idea myself and use that to give to local charities, and it turned out to be one of the main sources of business for us. What real-world advice would you give to students of today? My real world advice is to listen to opportunities. Sometimes they come as a no and you have

I was getting more than I was giving


Tony Vintcent
The founder of the schools Fine Arts Department and why he was so important to the school
THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL Tony Vintcent instructs the summerstock-theater group.

PRESENT DAY Michael Merrill 72 in his office (right). One of Merrills interior design presentations (below).

Marks and designing and building sets for the summer stock theater and the Harlequin Players sets, so I had kind of all the pieces come together. When I was a junior at St. Marks, one of the girls who was in one of the plays, her mother decided I had sort of a air for interior design and hired and actually paid me to design their home up on Royal Crest. So that was my very rst actual job. So youre fundraising for the Anthony Vincent Master teaching chair? Were about $400,000 into it and its a $1 million fund. Why did you start to raise money for the Anthony Vintcent fund? He was the person, for me, who most epitomized the St. Marks experience. He was my

Dont wait like I did. I waited for 25 years before I used any of St. Marks connections. Use them immediately. You earned them, and you paid for them. They are yours, Why not use them? MICHAEL MERRELL 72

to kind of readjust things so that they work for you. A no does not mean a no forever or no in every way. It means no, not right now, not in that way, but maybe there is a way you could modify this to where it becomes a yes or where its effective. So sometimes what you fear the most you can actually do the best job at. You just dont know until you try. How did you nd people to raise funds for the Anthony Vincent chair? That was the easiest thing I have ever done. I said, Did this man change your life? and they said, Absolutely, and I asked if they would give money and they said yes. Frasier Marcus 72, who I dont know very well, said I am giving $50,000 for this chair because I know how hard you worked on this, so Im giving you $50,000. Thats pretty unbelievable. He taught me that by what you say, which costs you nothing, by a couple of sentences or a turn of phrase you can make something much more powerful. You can make a $50,000 gift much more powerful. Thats how I found people to donate for the Anthony Vincent fund. I went to people whose lives were changed by him. What did you learn at St. Marks that helped you nancially in the real world? I think that in interior design most of your clients are quite wealthy, not all, but most, and if you dont know how wealthy people behave or how they think or how they act So having grown up around a lot of super rich-kids has made it easier for me to deal with that. I think that in a business that depends on a wealthy clientele that having lived among nancially productive families is denitely an advantage. Also, I learned not to set limits on myself. I also learned that the only way youre ever going to make money is to work hard for a very long time.

PHOTOS COURTESY MICHAEL MERRILL

COURTESY DEVELOPMENT OFFICE

Harlequin Players was a summer theater group made up of Marksmen and students from other schools. They produced plays from 1965 until 1972. Six plays in six weeks in the 1965 season, including The Cave Dwellers, The Chairs, This Property is Condemned, The Happy Time and Under Milkwood. Over 200 alumni participated in Harlequin Players during its seven year tenure. Forty ve performances completed overall. $400,000 already raised for endowed teaching chair in Tony Vintcents name.
LIVING LEGEND Tony Vintcent at the 2012 reunion of the Harlequin Players.

I WaS GEttiNG morE thaN i WaS GiviNG story by Bradford Beck

Eight members of math team win 43rd place at Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament, have one competition left this year
By Matthew Placide staff writer Eight members of the Math Team, chosen through month long tryouts, won 43rd place at the Harvard MIT Mathematics Tournament in Boston Feb. 22. Captains junior Raymond Guo, senior Victor Zhou and senior Alex Munoz led the team in with strong contributions from members junior Nick Jelsma, sophomore Tim OMeara, and freshmen Kevin Choi, Kaden Han and Daran Zhao. Despite not achieving their goal of placing in the tournaments top 35 teams, the squad is grateful for the opportunity to participate in such a prestigious tournament and face off against strong teams, including international students from China and Bulgaria. This year we had more teams compete, around 110 as opposed to 90 or so from last year, Guo said. I personally am still pretty proud of our team because we did our best and well just come back strong next year. Sometime the contests work our way, and sometimes they dont. Theres a luck factor as well. The contest, which students from the school began attending in 2012, is one of the most prestigious math competitions in America and the toughest one the team takes on every year. We first started sending a team to this competition my freshman year, Guo said. I felt that that year our team was amazing because we performed really well and got 41st place out of 100 teams and 600 students. The next year we got 39th, which is even more of an improvement and we were even more excited. Co-sponsor Clara Norman, who attended the contest and has worked with the math team for the past three years, agreed and expressed her confidence that the boys would represent themselves and the school well. Math Team members had to take a series of individual and group tests graded through a point system to qualify for a spot on the eight-man team and then spent months practicing for the competition. The Friday before the competition, team members reunited with recent alumni in the Boston area including former math team captain James Rowan 13 and former team member Noah Yonack 13. [Jim Bob] Womack helped arrange a dinner for us when he heard when the contest, was which was a great way to meet everyone and spend the day after we flew in, Guo said. And with only one more contest left until the end of the season, Guo and the other captains are satisfied with the teams performance this year. Even though our team was physically smaller, we did a lot better this year, Guo said. We have a lot of depth and everyone contributes, not just one or two people. We just keep getting better and better.

COURTESY DEVELOPMENT OFFICE