After 21 years of helping adult learners reach their educational goals, Organizational Leadership Program Chair Bruce Merritt, Ed.D., is ready to retire.
When he started at Corban University in 1992, the Adult Degree Program (ADP) was in its infancy. Throughout the next two decades he saw the program grow, alongside other traditional programs, to become a robust option for working adults in Oregon and around the world.
“Looking back, my time at Corban was as much of a God-ordained appointment as any I have ever seen,” he said.
He moved to Oregon with his wife, Linda, in 1990 and did not know about the school until passing by during a random drive along Deer Park Dr. S.E. In 1991 the recession took a toll on Merritt’s personal business. Following a recommendation from a friend at Salem Alliance Church, Merritt applied to work with the ADP when the program was just three months old.
Like any new program, Merritt said the ADP experienced growing pains as program administrators and instructors helped define its position within the University. Nancy Martyn, dean of the Adult Degree Program, said Merritt’s efforts to keep the program up to date and relevant has been pivotal to the program’s success. These efforts included the initiation of the online program in 1995 when mainstream use of online classes was still rare among most colleges.
It wasn’t until his tenth year at Corban that Merritt said he had a definitive “ah ha” moment where he fully realized the importance what he was doing as part of the program.
“When it happened, I couldn’t believe it took me 10 years to fully understand what God was doing here,” he said. “I realized it wasn’t about giving people degrees. It was about changing the way people think and changing who they are and giving them tools to be productive for the Lord. I wasn’t just helping people prepare for the job market. I was helping them prepare for eternity.
“Once I fully understood that and started sharing that perspective, it changed the way I approached everything I was doing within the program,” he added. Oregon State Representative Sherrie Sprenger, ’07, said his patience and love of students was evident in all of his interactions.
“I would honestly say that he was more invested in the success of his cohort than many of the cohort members,” she said. “He lived out Corban’s mission statement and viewed education as a tool to talk about and be an effective tool for Jesus.” Assistant professor of Business Shawn Hussey, Ph.D., not only took classes from Merritt, but worked alongside him as an adjunct ADP professor. Merritt was also on Hussey’s doctorate committee.
“He is probably one of the most humble men I know,” Hussey said. “He taught his classes as both an educator and professional, but never claimed he knew everything. I try to run my classes in a way that is open to dialog, in part because of what I learned by watching him.”
Though his office is still filled with treasured memories, Merritt said he has already taken steps to prepare for retirement. He loves to play the electric guitar and recently purchased an Epiphone ES-335. He also wants to learn different picking techniques on the banjo. Additionally, he plans to write, work on pen and ink drawings and spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.
“I don’t presume to know how everything is going to go, but I know God is going to take care of us,” he said. “I’m excited about this next chapter in my life.”