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The philanthropy of Charles Merrill, Jr. ignited life-changing journeys

Our alumni tell us they look back on their study-abroad experiences with thankful hearts. There is deep appreciation for the family, friends, schools, and scholarships that made their journeys possible. In some very special cases, their gratitude is directed to one particular person--in this case, a man who made it a mission to spur positive change and open new worlds through international education.

That man is Charles Merrill, Jr.

Since the late 1950s, in addition to his work as an educator and civil rights activist, the son of the co-founder of Merrill Lynch has offered scholarships to students at historically Black colleges and universities, starting with Spelman and Morehouse Colleges.

Merrill Scholarships can be applied to study abroad programs of the recipient’s choosing. Dozens of IES Abroad’s own students have come to us with Merrill Scholarships and set off on adventures everywhere from Melbourne, Australia, to Nantes, France. Mr. Merrill’s impact on their education is profound and IES Abroad is proud to call him an official  contributor to our diversity initiatives.

While reminiscing on what inspired his study abroad scholarships for African American undergraduates, Mr. Merrill told us, “From my early childhood I [traveled throughout] Europe… London, Paris, Florence, Rome, Switzerland. Then in my teens, this widened to include Germany and Austria, and even Czechoslovakia and a couple of places in Yugoslavia. [I began thinking that] if a trip to Prague, a city no Merrill had ever visited, could help build my independence, it could do the same for Black students and their schools. I developed a strong commitment to Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, [among other] colleges and secondary schools.”

“Mr. Merrill’s support of study abroad programs is a 50-year legacy,” says Gretchen Cook-Anderson, IES Abroad’s Director of Diversity Recruiting & Advising--and a Merrill Scholar herself. “It’s very inspirational to see the impact he has had on students’ lives. He has influenced so many career paths.”

Following in Mr. Merrill's Footsteps

To honor the vision and foresight of Charles Merrill Jr, the following IES Abroad alumni have provided the seed money to establish an endowed scholarship fund in his honor that will provide scholarship aid in perpetuity to need-based, underrepresented students studying at IES Abroad centers worldwide. 

  • Dr. Donald R. Hopkins, Vienna ’60-‘61
  • Dr. Shirley Marks, Vienna ’67-‘68

Once the IES Abroad Charles Merrill Jr. Scholarship fund reaches $50,000 in gifts, IES Abroad will begin awarding up to$2,000 scholarships to one or more students annually.  The Merrill scholarship is a key component of the IES Abroad Diversity Initiative.  IES Abroad’s commitment to provide access to all students started with its founding in 1950 and continues today.  IES Abroad leads the study abroad field with nearly 23% of our nearly 6,000 students coming from racially or ethnically-diverse backgrounds. But this is not enough. There are many more students who want to study abroad and cannot because of financial limitations.

Please make a gift to the Merrill Scholarship Fund today. To contribute, you can give online, call the IES Abroad Advancement Office at 312-944-1750, or email [email protected].

Discover the journeys of IES Abroad’s Merrill Scholar alumni

Are you a Merrill Scholar? We’d love to hear your story. Please email [email protected]