Emeritus Professor, LARP
LARP lost a great former colleague in early 2021. Merle Willmann served in UMass and LARP from 1963-1997. Many alums will remember Merle as the guy who prowled our beloved Hills North – always reminding students to take some pride and responsibility in their workspace – teaching them a life-lesson that many have carried forward. Merle served as professor in our leisure Studies program and unselfishly as Assistant Department head for years, dutifully managing many of the day-to-day chores that kept the department running. Merle started the Boltwood project – a long-running service learning program initially serving clients at the Belchertown State School. After the Ste School closed, Merle expanded the Program to serve 15 community groups in the Valley – serving a broad range of humanity in need. The Boltwood Program served students from every major at UMass and enrolled over 11,000 students under Merle’s tenure!!For his service to the Boltwood program, merle received the Chancellor’s Outstanding Service Award.
Merle had many friends in the department. John Mullin remembers Merle as a true “Mr. Chips”, always caring about students and helping those with “issues”. Mark Lindhult remembers Merle as “one of the most helpful people in getting him settled in and adjusted at UMass. If he couldn't answer a question, you could be certain that he knew someone on campus that could...and it seemed that Merle knew everyone! Mark met with some of Merle’s former students from Parks and Recreation and recalls that they absolutely loved him because he was so committed to their success. He was one of the most sincere and caring individuals whom I've ever known.!” Meir Gross recalls Merle for chasing non-department students from our very modest but beloved computer lab – (built in a former men’s room) …. and for bringing Meir a gift of diapers when he had his daughter. I remember Merle as a modest and ever-kind gentleman who was never at a loss for words and totally committed to everyone’s happiness and success.
God bless you Merle Willmann, we miss your kindness and smiling face!!
Jack Ahern BS ’74, faculty 1986-2020