In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus Merle Willmann, Founder of the Boltwood Project

Professor Emeritus Merle G. Willmann, 86, founder and original faculty director of The Boltwood Project, died at home in South Deerfield on Friday, January 8, 2021. For over 50 years, UMass has been home to The Boltwood Project, a civic engagement program that Professor Willmann conceived of to partner with a variety of community organizations to provide recreation and socialization activities for people with varying intellectual and physical abilities.

Dr. Willmann initiated the program when he was a young professor who could often be found with students at the café on Boltwood Walk in Amherst Center. The first six University participants in the program were students with whom Dr. Willmann drank coffee and talked to about world affairs, such as the Vietnam War and the student-led events surrounding it. In honor of their café association, they named their initiative The Boltwood Project and began their service at the now closed Belchertown State Hospital. Currently, an average of 100 UMass students participate in this student-run service learning program every semester. 

The Boltwood Project students and CESL faculty and staff extend our condolences to Professor Willmann’s family, and our deepest respect and heartfelt thanks for his vision in creating a program that has brought joy to thousands of community members and students for more than five decades.

Read Professor Willmann’s obituary here:
Read more about The Boltwood Project here: