Publisher and diplomat Philip Merrill has committed $4 million to the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies to establish the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies.
The new center will strengthen and expand the Washington school's strategic studies program, which focuses on the role and nature of military force in world politics.
"In so many trouble spots around the world, we're not at war, but we certainly aren't at peace," Merrill said. "Understanding how political and military affairs intersect is essential in dealing with today's ambiguous, shifting situations."
Merrill said his goal is for the strategic studies program at SAIS to become the best of its kind in the world. His philanthropy--through the Merrill Family Foundation that his wife, Eleanor, heads--has focused on "making transformational gifts by investing substantial money in relatively small programs under outstanding management and lifting them to excellence," he said.
William R. Brody, president of the university, praised Merrill, a Johns Hopkins trustee emeritus, as "exceptionally generous and visionary in his support of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies." In addition to his service on the university's board of trustees, Merrill is among the longest-serving members of the SAIS Advisory Council.
"This is philanthropy at its best," SAIS Dean Jessica Einhorn said. "Over more than a decade, Phil has provided Merrill Fellowships to students concentrating in national security issues. With this commitment, he has dramatically expanded our resources for strategic studies, giving us the freedom to use those resources in ways that will make the greatest difference."
Eliot Cohen, a professor and director of Strategic Studies, said, "Selective excellence is the unofficial motto of Johns Hopkins, and with this gift we can achieve just that in this field. In that way, I take Phil Merrill's grant to us not only as a gift but as the best kind of challenge, for which I am deeply grateful."
The Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies will have two interrelated missions: fostering excellence in national security education and bridging a growing gap between academic discourse and the world of policy, Cohen said.
"Among other things, Phil's gift will allow us to add to our full-time faculty, support our most promising students, enhance an extensive program of field trips--including our signature 'staff rides' that take students to historic battlefields around the world--and bring visiting fellows to SAIS from government, the military and the academy," Cohen said.
The gift was finalized just before Merrill was sworn in as president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. It was the eighth time he has taken the oath of office, including as a private in the U.S. Army.
"Each time, I have felt the same mixture of inspiration, dedication, determination and appreciation for everything this country has done for me, for my family and for the cause of freedom and free institutions," Merrill said when he was sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney in December. Cheney said that Merrill "has had a distinguished and successful business career as well as holding a number of vital assignments for the White House and Department of Defense." George W. Bush is the seventh U.S. president under whom Merrill has served.
As he accepted the federal appointment, Merrill stepped down as chairman of Capital-Gazette Communications Inc., which publishes Washingtonian magazine, the Annapolis Capital and four other Maryland newspapers.
His career in public service has included assignments as assistant secretary-general of NATO, special assistant to the deputy secretary of state, member of the Department of Defense Policy Board and a U.S. representative in international negotiations ranging from disarmament to telecommunications. The Export-Import Bank is an independent government agency that helps U.S. companies compete abroad, financing the sale of U.S. exports throughout the world by providing loans, guarantees and insurance.
With the pledge from Merrill, commitments to the Johns Hopkins Knowledge for the World campaign total more than $909 million, 45.5 percent of the $2 billion goal. Priorities of the fund-raising campaign, which benefits both The Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, include building and upgrading facilities on all campuses; strengthening endowment for student aid and faculty support; and advancing research, academic and clinical initiatives. The campaign began in July 2000 and is scheduled to end in 2007.