Richard “Scooter” Merritt ’66 has been named a 2013 Living Legend of Alexandria, Virginia. The honor is reserved for those who have made significant contributions, for 10 years or more, to the quality of life in Alexandria. The 2013 honorees were introduced at a “Meet the Legends” reception earlier this year and included in a Legends catalog available at the U.S. Library of Congress as well as a photographic exhibit of honorees that will appear at several community events over the next year.
Merritt, a Texas native, has lived in Alexandria for some 18 years, but his community service began far earlier. After graduating from Austin College, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in western India on the Arabian Sea, working in community development helping to find resources and improve crop yields. The experience changed his life. “You make of it what you will, and I tried to open myself up as much as I could,” he said. “I came out a much better person. It taught me so many values and traits: patience, tolerance, confidence, independence, empathy.”
Through the Peace Corps experience, he also embraced one of Gandhi’s guiding principles: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The recent honor is testament to Merritt’s commitment to that ideal.
Returning to the U.S., he studied international relations at Tufts University, originally planning a career in foreign service but found his interests closer to home. Instead, he spent three years as a research associate at the National Legislative Conference, and from 1975 to 1980, was staff director for human resources at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
From 1980 to 1996, Merritt was director of the Intergovernmental Health Policy Project at George Washington University. The next 10 years he served as director of the Forum for State Health Policy Leadership with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
For many of those working years, Merritt lived in Arlington, Virginia. Upon moving to Alexandria 18 years ago, his interest in his community continued. He has served on a number of boards, including the Visiting Nurse Association of Northern Virginia, Hospice of Northern Virginia, and Inova Health Systems. He is chair of the Alexandria Public Health Advisory Commission and chair of the Clean and Smoke Free Air Coalition of Alexandria, part of the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria.
His roles in community work are not just administrative. When it was time to post quit smoking signs in playgrounds and parks, volunteers were scarce. Merritt was on the job.
The City of Alexandria has been honored for the past five years as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People in America. That city’s mayor wants to see Alexandria at number one. “That’s a terrific vision,” Scooter said, “and I’d like to play a role in making that come about.”
Original story and photo courtesy of © Living Legends of Alexandria, written by Lou Cook. Photo by Steven Halperson.
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