The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports


July 14, 2010

Michael Preston Merilan

Michael Preston Merilan

SIDNEY _ Dr. Michael Preston Merilan, 54, passed away peacefully Saturday, July 10, 2010, with his wife by his side at Wilson Memorial Hospital in Johnson City, after a courageous battle with kidney cancer. At the time of his death he was completing his 17th year as the Dean of the Division of Science and Social Science at the State University of New York College at Oneonta along with directing the College Observatory, the College Planetarium, and teaching many of the campus' courses in astronomy and astrophysics.

He was born Jan. 5, 1956, son of the late Charles Preston and Phyllis Pauline (Laughlin) Merilan in Columbia, Mo.

He married Karene Anne Yanuklis on Sept. 2, 1995.

Dr. Merilan received his B.S. in Physics (summa cum laude) from the University of Missouri in 1978, and his M.S. in Physics in 1980. He earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the Ohio State University in 1985. As an undergraduate he was inducted into numerous honor societies most notably; Phi Eta Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Mu Epsilon, and Phi Beta Kappa.

While a graduate student he was inducted into the research honor society Sigma Xi. Later, as a faculty member, he was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma and Omicron Delta Kappa.

Turning down postdoctoral position offers from Princeton University and the University of Virginia, Dr. Merilan joined the faculty at the State University of New York College at Oneonta in 1985. After serving briefly as Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the early 1990s, he was selected as the campus' Dean of Science and Social Science.

As Dean he facilitated the college's rise in student selectivity, hiring of new faculty, the expansion of the academic curriculum, and upgrades to the campus' academic infrastructure including instrumentation and facilities.

However, throughout his deanship he also continued to teach astronomy courses, undertake astronomical research, and perform public service. His introductory classes were well appreciated among the student body with heavy enrollments.

He supervised the relocation of the College Observatory from the roof of the Physical Science Building to the darker College Camp, introduced a public observing series available to students and the community, modernized the instrumentation at the Observatory, and facilitated the College's acquisition of a one-meter diameter reflecting telescope-the largest optical telescope in New York State. He also supervised the rehabilitation of the College Planetarium overseeing the transition to a state of the art digital facility infrequently found on university or college campuses.

Dr. Merilan's biography has been featured in several "Who's Who" publications such as "Who's Who in the World," "Who's Who in America," "Who's Who in the East," "Who's Who in American Education," and Who's Who in Science & Technology." He was an avid collector of meteorites, stamps, coins and antique books and had been classically trained on the violin.

Dr. Merilan's contributions to the academic community and the college will continue to enhance learning for decades. He will be greatly missed by his students, colleagues, family and friends.

Michael joined his parents and his grandparents; Peter Samuel Merilan, Cleo Sarah Harper Merilan, Joseph Walkup Laughlin and Cora Jeffries Laughlin.

He is survived by his wife, Karene Anne (Yanuklis) Merilan, of Sidney; his sister, Jean Elizabeth Merilan of Tucson, Ariz.; father-in-law, John Henry Yanuklis Sr. of Simi Valley, Calif.; brother-in-law, John Henry Yanuklis Jr. of Madison, Ga.; sisters-in-law, Kim Marie Garcia of Simi Valley, Calif., and Laurie Ann Sibia Kephart of Simi Valley, Calif.

At Dr. Merilan's request there will be no calling hours.

Services to celebrate Dr. Merilan's life will be held at the Unadilla Center United Methodist Church and at the State University of New York College at Oneonta in September of 2010. The date and time of the memorial services will be announced at a later date.

Michael's interment will take place in the Conway Cemetery, Osage Beach, Mo., where he will be laid to rest with all of his late relatives.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts in Michael's memory may be made to the College at Oneonta Foundation to establish the Dr. Michael Preston Merilan Scholarship. Please make checks payable to the College of Oneonta Foundation and send to 308 Netzer Administration Building, SUNY Oneonta, NY 13820.

Arrangements are by the Westcott Funeral Home Inc., 123 Main St., Unadilla.

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