New mathematics and computing scholarship honors Sandra Merriman

Roughly 50 years ago this spring, Bob Merriman met Sandra Hughes while competing in the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Association math contest hosted by Maryville College. Bob was representing Maryville High School; Sandra was representing Alcoa High School.

Sharing a number of common interests, they began dating right away and were married in 1963.

On April 12, 2011, the Merrimans, who still call Blount County home, came to the Maryville College campus again. And although Sandra was unaware of it initially, the purpose was for math.

Bob Merriman, a member of the College’s Board of Directors, chose the occasion – near Sandra’s birthday – to announce the establishment of the Sandra Merriman Mathematics and Computing Achievement Scholarship at Maryville College.

In addition to surprising his wife with the news, Bob surprised several math and computer science faculty members who were invited to the special luncheon in the Proffitt Dining Room.

Stating that this gift was to recognize his wife Sandra on “one of those birthdays,” Bob explained that he established the scholarship for outstanding students majoring in mathematics or computer science “to encourage excellence in these fields by facilitating the education of students committed to careers in research, application or teaching of mathematics and/or computing sciences.”

The scholarship is designated for students of high academic achievement. Preference will be given to graduates of high schools in Blount County who have competed in the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Association math contest, which is still hosted by the College. Financial need will also be taken into consideration.

The scholarship could be awarded as soon as fall 2011.

At the luncheon, Bob talked about his wife’s career in computing and telecommunications with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). “Sandy’s rigorous education in mathematics and the encouragement of her teachers along the way provided her the tools for a very meaningful career at ORNL,” he said. “It is hoped that this scholarship will help others take advantage of those same opportunities as well as underscore the importance of great teachers, such as we have at Maryville College.”

MC President: Math education important for future

Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart called Bob Merriman “an active and engaged board member,” adding that the establishment of the Sandra Merriman Mathematics and Computing Achievement Scholarship not only demonstrated his commitment to the College but also his desire that the College attract the best students and help them reach their full potential.

Bogart said the need for well-educated professionals in math and computer sciences is a constant in today’s world.

“Both Tennessee and the national government place great emphasis on math education. I believe that the study of math in a liberal-arts framework – as it is offered here at Maryville College – is not only excellent, but also relevant to improving the world,” he said. “Sandy Merriman’s career illustrates the wide range of possibilities that are available to a talented and dedicated person, and her example will help inspire others to build the future.”

For more information about setting up an annual or endowed scholarship at Maryville College, contact Holly Jackson Sullivan at 865-273-8884 or holly.sullivan@maryvillecollege.edu.