Former Loyola Marymount University (LMU) President Donald P. Merrifield, who served for 15 years and worked to increase diversity among the university’s student body, has died. He was 81.

Merrifield, who was appointed as Loyola University’s 11th president in 1969, passed away February 25th in San Jose. He was the first president to head the merged university after Loyola and Marymount College came together in 1973, and he remained president until 1984, overseeing much of the development of the modern campus, LMU President Robert Lawton said.

“The view from any corner of our campus will take in the influence of Father Merrifield,” said Lawton.

Among the 13 buildings constructed during Merrifield’s tenure are the Leavey Faculty Center, the Von der Ahe Communication Arts Building, Loyola Apartments, Eugenie Hannon Apartments, Doolan Hall, Gersten Pavilion, George Page Baseball Stadium, Burns Fine Art Center and Laband Art Gallery.

Lawton noted that Merrifield strongly supported the dramatic expansion of the Loyola Law School facilities near downtown Los Angeles that accommodated its burgeoning enrollment, growing faculty and need for modern facilities.

His chief contribution to LMU was his passion for diversity and inclusive education, Lawton said.

During his tenure, Merrifield oversaw financial aid initiatives, scholarships and recruitment drives to increase the presence of minority students. Under Merrifield’s leadership, the university established support services for students of color as well as added courses on African American and Chicano/Latino studies to the curriculum.

He was also instrumental in the formation of the Mexican American Alumni Association in 1981, Lawton explained.

“Look at the many, varied faces on our campus and you see the influence of Father Merrifield,” he said.

Merrifield was born November 14th, 1928, in Los Angeles and graduated from Inglewood High School. He earned his bachelor of science in physics from Caltech, his master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his doctorate in physics from MIT.

He joined the Society of Jesus in 1951 and was ordained at Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood in 1965. Prior to joining LMU, he taught physics at the University of San Francisco.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts in honor of Father Merrifield may be sent to: Loyola Marymount University, Attn: Alma Vorst, 1 LMU Drive, Suite 2800, Los Angeles, CA 90045-2659.

A funeral Mass for Merrifield was held Tuesday, March 9th, at Sacred Heart Chapel on the LMU campus.