Residence: White Bear Lake, MN
Deceased: July 12, 2020
Alumni survivors: Mr. Paul S. Filstrup ’71 (Cousin), Sharon Tornes Merritt ’66 W66 (Widow/Widower)
Esther (Musson) Johnson '64 W64
Andrew Smith '84
Obituary for Tom Merritt, Class of 1966 Tom Merritt died July 12, 2020 after living with pancreatic cancer for more than 3 years. He demonstrated ownership, acceptance, and thoughtful consideration in helping those who love him understand his disease and its repercussions, and maintained his sense of humor throughout. A lifelong Unitarian, Tom’s moral compass was the Golden Rule, a central teaching of the world’s religions. He strove to live a life of integrity, service, and joy, and considered himself among the most fortunate men on the planet. Born and raised in Plainfield, NJ, his parents ensured he was surrounded by love, was well educated, understood his family roots, and used his wings to fly independently in adulthood. He and his wife instilled the same in their children. Tom earned a BA from Carleton College in 1966 where he met his future life mate, Sharon. He attended Navy Officer Candidate School immediately after graduation, and the two married upon his commissioning. He was proud of his duty aboard the USS James K. Polk, a nuclear missile submarine. After earning his MBA in 1975 during his 1st post-military job, at a NJ bank, Tom joined the International Division of The Upjohn Company (Kalamazoo, MI) in 1976, which included postings in Madrid, Spain and Seoul, Korea. In retirement, Tom and Sharon relocated to Minnesota, immersed themselves in multiple volunteer activities, and continued to pursue their wonder and curiosity about the world through travel. Predeceased by parents Robert and Nancy (McLellan) Merritt and brother-in-law William Land, he is survived by his wife, Sharon, daughters Kari (Andrew) Leon and Ann Merritt, grandchildren Samuel and Claudia Leon, sister Jane Land, brothers-in-law John (Barbara) Tornes and Lan (Laurel) Tornes plus numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. Memorial services will be held via livestream on August 9, 2020 at 2:00 pm CST; visit www.unityunitarian.org for the link. In lieu of flowers, donations to a charitable organization of one’s choosing are encouraged. Make the world a better place, and carpe omnia.
Tom Merritt's Exceptional Service Award nomination, 2016: Tom Merritt is one of those rare individuals who elevates any gathering of Carls. Recognized by classmates as “the glue that keeps our class together,” Merritt’s care and devoted attention to building ties within the Carleton community is truly exceptional. “Tom wears his passion for Carleton proudly on his sleeve, and his dedication to Carleton in both big and small ways over the last 50 years has made a real difference for both the college and his classmates,” says one nominator. Merritt has been a constant and long- standing volunteer for Carleton. He has served most recently as cochair of 1966’s 50th reunion, and has volunteered on nearly every reunion committee for the class. He has been a dedicated class agent or leadership gift solicitor for the Alumni Annual Fund for more than 20 years. Merritt’s classmates directly attribute their close connection to the college and each other to his enthusiasm, outreach, and remarkable skill in communicating. “Tom Merritt, in my mind, has kept the Class of ’66 together by keeping us connected and reminding us about this common experience—the Carleton experience.” From 2007 to 2011, Merritt served as an at-large member of the Alumni Council and for two years chaired the Council’s Awards and Nominations Committee with characteristic attentiveness and diplomacy. “His exceptional warmth and openness drew everyone (current students in particular) into conversation. And without question, this contributed to the tenor and productivity of meetings,” says a former council member. Across the numerous alumni activities with which he has been involved, Merritt is recognized for his incredible ability to bring people together, his thoughtful approach to sensitive decisions, and his consistent willingness to rise to new challenges. Merritt is a regular presence at club events, on Alumni Adventures programs, and at other Carleton educational programs, and he keeps classmates informed about the Carleton of today. “His curiosity about fellow Carls, interest in lifelong learning, and ability to navigate generational differences make him stand out even in a Carleton crowd,” says a nominator. Merritt majored in government and received an MBA from Rutgers in 1974. He notes that “my Carleton experience was clearly life-changing, since I found my life partner in our class. A guy couldn’t be more fortunate than to have had Sharon [Tornes, also ’66] say ‘Yes.’”Tom and Sharon live in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.
I just learned the sad news. I met Tom and Sharon on a trip to Ethiopia and Tanzania few years ago. I had a fantastic time with the group especially with Tom. He was so fun to have around. He made my trip so fun and we leaned a lot.
I got to know Tom much better after Carleton. While at Carleton I remember Dean Jarchow holding him up as an example of someone I should use as an example--little did know how right he was. Working with Tom on our 50th reunion committee was one of the best experiences of my life. If anyone deserved the Carleton Exceptional Service Award it was Tom. Every time I was in the Cities I tried to get together with Tom-- he really was a pleasure to know. I am still saddened by his death.