The P.D. Merrill Makerspace is a popular laboratory for creation and building that attracts a growing number of students from a variety of academic disciplines with an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. The P.D. Merrill Trust has been a strong supporter of innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives at the University of New England with several annual gifts starting in 2013 to support the Student Innovation Challenge, an idea-stage competition that encourages innovative and sustainable solutions to social, environmental, and health issues facing our society. The Merrill Trust made a significant gift in 2017 to expand the Makerspace with rooms and equipment to support digital application innovation and development. The most recent gift in 2019 provided further support for the Student Innovation Challenge, funds to add professional staff, and funds to bring visiting innovators from other industry and academic institutions to UNE to share their expertise with students.
P.D. Merrill was chair of Merrill Industries and a prominent business leader in the Portland community.
He and his father established Merrill’s Marine Terminal in Portland, through which Maine gets its road salt and other industrial commodities. Newsprint for the Boston Globe, New York Times and Wall Street Journal comes over its wharf. He was instrumental in the renovation of what is now Merrill Auditorium, named in honor of his parents. He chaired the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Business Alliance from 1998-1999. He was a founder of the Maine Economic Research Institute. He was active in the International Forest Products Transportation Association, and the Industrial Advisory Board of the Loeb Sullivan School of International Business and Logistics at the Maine Maritime Academy. He joined UNE’s Board of Trustees in 1984, serving as chair of the Board of Trustees from 1995-2000 when Westbrook College joined UNE, and was involved in a wide variety of other philanthropic endeavors throughout the state.
Peter Vigue, chairman of The Cianbro Companies and a trustee of the P.D. Merrill Charitable Trust, stated, “Not only did I consider P.D. as a friend but a man of outstanding principles and integrity that were unmatched. P.D.’s commitment to UNE during its years of growth had a profound effect on the success that UNE enjoys today.”
John Achatz, a trustee of the P.D. Merrill Charitable Trust, stated, “P.D. cared a great deal about UNE and about business leadership in Maine. He did not like putting his name on things, but he would be quietly pleased that the University has chosen to honor him in this way. We are glad to support UNE in enhancing educational resources for future business leaders.”
Anthony Tenneson, former Treasurer of Merrill Industries and a trustee of the P.D. Merrill Charitable Trust, observed, “P.D. should be honored for his commitment to Merrill employees. Businesses have good years and bad. He never threw in the towel no matter what. His commitment to all employees was reflected in the agreements when Merrill’s Marine Terminal was transferred to Sprague Energy. He always put the Merrill ‘family’ first. The business community and educational institutions such as UNE were his family as well. I wish we had more P.D.s today.”
UNE President James Herbert remarked, “P.D. Merrill played a huge role in making the University of New England what it is today, having started as a trustee in 1984 shortly after UNE’s founding, to serving as Chair of the Board during the merger with Westbrook College in 1996. He was clearly a visionary who was always looking to the future, so it is entirely appropriate that the Chair of the Business Department be named in his honor and in perpetuity.”