Donald P. Merrifield, S.J.

Message from the President 

Feb. 25, 2010

Dear LMU Community,

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of Donald P. Merrifield, S.J. Father Merrifield passed away today in San Jose, Calif., at the age of 81.

Father Merrifield was the 11th president of Loyola University and the first president of the merged Loyola University and Marymount College in 1973. That alone would make him a pivotal figure of this institution. But beyond that part of history, so much of the university we see today is the result of his efforts. Deeper still, he helped develop the character of LMU and all those who study and work here.

Father Merrifield’s tenure as president was from 1969 to 1984. In those 15 years, he oversaw the construction of 13 buildings on campus, including the Leavey Faculty Center, the Von der Ahe Communication Arts Building, Loyola Apartments, Bird Nest, Eugenie Hannon Apartments, Doolan Hall, Gersten Pavilion, George Page Baseball Stadium, Burns Fine Art Center and Laband Art Gallery. The view from any corner of our campus will take in the influence of Father Merrifield.

No less characteristic was his passion for diversity and inclusive education. Merrifield oversaw financial aid initiatives, the creation of scholarships and recruiting drives to increase the presence of students of color on campus. Under his leadership, the university set up its first support services office for minority students and added to the curriculum courses on African American and Chicano/Latino studies. Merrifield was instrumental in the formation of the Mexican American Alumni Association in 1981. MAAA is still an integral part of the university; its top scholastic award is the Donald P. Merrifield Scholarship. Look at the many, varied faces on our campus and you see the influence of Father Merrifield.

He was also passionate about dialogue between religions and helped establish the first Interfaith Group on campus. So committed was Father Merrifield to this concept, when he was inaugurated in 1969, he turned to Rabbi Alfred Wolf to give the invocation.

Father Merrifield was born Nov. 14, 1928, in Los Angeles and graduated from Inglewood High School. He earned his Bachelor of Science in physics from Caltech, his master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his doctorate in physics from MIT. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1951 and was ordained at Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood in 1965. Father Merrifield taught physics at Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco. He was also a consultant to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts in honor of Father Merrifield may be sent to: Loyola Marymount University, Attn: Alma Vorst, 1 LMU Drive, Suite 2800, Los Angeles, CA 90045-2659. There will be a memorial Mass celebrated for Father Merrifield on Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at Sacred Heart Chapel on the LMU campus (time to be determined).  Additional information will be made available at

Father Merrifield expanded and enriched LMU and we are forever blessed by him and his work.


Robert B. Lawton, S.J.