Dedicated and hard-working, University President George Ross and former president Mike Rao said.
“You are truly an asset to the CMU community,” Ross said in a July 2010 letter to William Merrill, congratulating him for securing a $200,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Education.
Thumb through the thousands of pages that comprise the personnel file of Merrill and you won’t find a negative word about the former professor.
Ten days before, July 16, 2010, Ross sent a letter congratulating Merrill on a salary increase. He had received another in 2004, at the request of then-Provost Thomas Storch and support of Rao.
“I am proud of your hard work and pleased to have played a role in ensuring that it has been recognized,” Rao wrote in a July 2004 letter to Merrill.
But the faculty member of some 25 years, tenured for nearly two decades, now faces federal child pornography charges. Someone who had never been in trouble before, his career – and life – turned upside down in a week.
CMU police and administrators began investigating Merrill on Monday, Nov. 5, after IT workers discovered sexually graphic material on his campus computer.
That same day, Merrill was placed on a leave of absence by Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, dean of the College of Education and Human Services.
“As you are aware, you are the subject of a criminal investigation,” Pehrsson wrote in a letter to Merrill. “… Furthermore, I am directing you to stay off campus until this matter is resolved.”
Pehrsson followed up on Nov. 8, the day CMU announced Merrill’s suspension, with a letter scheduling an “investigatory meeting” for Nov. 15 in a conference room at the Comfort Inn & Suites, 2424 S. Mission St., with him, Executive Director of Faculty Personnel Services Matt Sera and her. Three days later, in a letter to Provost Gary Shapiro, Merrill announced his resignation effective Nov. 11.
“After 25 years working as a faculty member in the Department of Teaching Education and Professional Development at Central Michigan University, I am tendering my resignation,” Merrill wrote, signing his name.
CMU accepted, and announced, his resignation on Nov. 12.
His personnel file is dotted with positive recommendations and congratulatory letters.
In an analysis of his performance in the classroom, likely the precursor for his raise in the summer of 2010, Merrill’s student opinion survey scores were high. In one example, his SOS scores for the EDU290 course he taught from the fall of 2007 to spring 2009, were touted as “consistently strong” by Kathy Koch, then dean of the College of Education and Human Services.
“Dr. Ross and I agree that you exceed departmental expectations for teaching effectiveness,” Koch wrote in a Nov. 2009 letter to Merrill.
Merrill was chairman of the department of teaching education and professional development from January 1995 to August 2003.
In the summer of 1996, Merrill addressed students at academic orientation, to much fanfare from administrators.
“Your remarks about academic programs, fields of study and various aspects of curricular matters were exactly what we were hoping would be conveyed to our students,” said Bruce Roscoe, then Dean of Students. “My understanding is that you took complex information and made it understandable, and even in some cases exciting, for these entry-level students. I applaud your skill in this.”
A doctor of philosophy in education from Ohio State University, Merrill earned his master’s in K through 6 education at the University of North Florida in 1984 and his bachelor of science degree in K through 8 education from OSU in 1979, according to his vita on file with the university.
From July 1990 to Nov. 1994, he was appointed as the field director of the Michigan Mathematics Inservice Project for Elementary and Middle School Teachers. He served as a fourth-grade teacher in the Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla., from 1979 to 1984, and was a substitute teacher in the Columbus (Ohio) City Schools.
Merrill’s bio page on cmich.edu, which has since been deleted, said he specialized in “censorship and the Internet, impact of children on advertising in society, integration of the Internet into instruction to enhance teaching and learning and using technology to enhance teaching and learning.”
His only gripe on file with CMU during his long tenure? A pay dispute in the spring of 1990.
Merrill, in his third year as an instructor in the teacher education and professional development department, felt like his $29,127-a-year salary was unfair when first-year educators were being paid $28,500.
“I would … like to go on record as saying that I find the method of determining my expertise to be somewhat insulting,” Merrill wrote on May 23, 1990, to Jerry Misner, then associate dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services.
One day later, his salary was increased to $31,000.
Merrill was due to make $99,442 for the 2012-13 academic year and more than $138,000 including benefits, according to university records.