Judy Miles Merritt
Published 11:19 am Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Judy Miles Merritt
Judy Miles Merritt passed away Sunday, Oct. 19 at her home in Chelsea. She was born in Jacksonville, Ala., the only daughter of longtime educators. Her father, Dr. Lawrence Miles, was Dean of Admissions at Jacksonville State University. Her mother, Beatrice Davis Miles, was a teacher. She entered the University of Alabama at age 16 beginning her lifelong love of the opportunities afforded by advanced education. She was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority and an active leader in campus activities, but most importantly she would meet Thomas E. Merritt, Jr. who would become her best friend, the love of her life, and husband. She would later earn both her M.A. and PhD at the University of Alabama.
She began her career in higher education as a counselor of admissions at then Jefferson State Junior College in 1965, the opening year of the College. Judy often remarked this was her favorite job because it allowed her direct interaction with the students. She would later hold positions at Florida International University as Vice-President of Student Affairs. She returned home to Alabama in 1979 to Jefferson State Junior College as President. Her appointment by Governor Fob James marked the first time a woman had been named president of a college in Alabama.
She blazed a trail and opened doors for all with her appointment to the Brunos, Inc. Board of Directors and followed in 1993 with her appointment as the first female corporate board member for Energen Corporation serving until the time of her death. She capped off these impressive leadership positions when she became the only female on the SouthTrust Bank Board of Directors. In 1993, she again paved the way for women by becoming the first to chair the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. While her leadership positions have been extraordinary, it is how she used them that has inspired others to follow. Judy personified the servant leader. She made it her life’s mission to ensure that a pathway to success was open for all.
When Judy Merritt began her tenure at Jefferson State Community College, the College consisted of one campus located in the eastern area of Jefferson County. Through her vision and amazing ability to form partnerships, today JSCC has campuses in four counties furthering her dream of opening doors of higher education for all. In her 35 years as president, she presided over a period of an unprecedented growth. Upon her retirement in June 2014, she remarked that while the dream for many has been achieved the fight for pathways to education, equality and inclusion continues.
During her career, she served on numerous boards and committees. Among her favorites were the Hand in Paw Advisory Board, the United Way of Central Alabama of which she Co-Chaired, Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama Board of Directors, American Association of Community and Junior Colleges Board of Directors, Executive Council of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. During her career Judy received many awards and recognitions; however she was most pleased when the recognition was afforded to her Jefferson State Community College family.
Judy is preceded in death by her parents, Lawrence and Beatrice Miles and her husband, Thomas E. Merritt, Jr. A celebration of her life will be held Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. in the Health Sciences Building at the Jefferson State Community College Shelby-Hoover Campus, 4600 Valleydale Road, Birmingham.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Judy’s memory can be made to the Jefferson State Community College Foundation and sent to Carolyn Densmore, 6978 Parc Brook Lane, Trussville, AL 35173. For many years, Judy concluded her conversations with those whom she cared for with “peace be with you.”