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Anonymous gift establishes Merritt Structural Design Lab

Former CEE faculty member and alumnus Joshua L. Merritt (MS 55, PhD 58) and his wife, Eleanor, will be honored with a named teaching laboratory, thanks to a gift by a CEE alumnus who prefers to remain anonymous. Named the E.W. and J.L. Merritt Structural Design Laboratory, the lab will be located in the new planned addition to Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory, part of the CEE Modernization Plan Phase II project.

J.L. Merritt, right, during his time at Illinois with William J. Hall in the background.
J.L. Merritt, right, during his time at Illinois with William J. Hall in the background.

Merritt was born on July 28, 1931, in Dundalk, Baltimore County, Maryland. He received a bachelor’s degree with high honors from Lehigh University in 1952, where he was recognized with the John B. Carson Award for best record in professional courses. He continued his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his master’s degree in civil engineering in 1955 and his doctorate in structural engineering with a minor in theoretical and applied mechanics in 1958.

He then joined the faculty, being promoted to full professor in 1966. In 1962, Merritt won the A. Epstein Award for Outstanding Young Staff Members. During his time on the faculty at Illinois, Merritt also worked as an independent consultant, as well as an associate for Newmark, Hansen and Associates, and Nathan M. Newmark Consulting Engineering Services. In 1968, Merritt went to work in industry, continuing for two years as a visiting faculty member in CEE. In 1971, he founded Merritt Cases Inc. and served as CEO until 2007.

Over the course of his career, Merritt evaluated the effects of – and developed design criteria for – seismic and other accidental effects on nuclear reactors, major high-rise buildings, bridges, Naval facilities and major underground subways and sewers. He was registered as a civil engineer in California and Nevada; geotechnical engineer in California; structural engineer in California, Illinois and Nevada; and professional civil engineer in New Mexico.

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