In Memoriam: Sonny Merryman, entrepreneur and philanthropist
Floyd W. “Sonny” Merryman Jr., whose philanthropy and volunteer involvement made a profound impact at Virginia Tech, died Saturday, Dec. 7, at age 89.
Merryman was a member of the Class of 1946 and in 2006 was honored with the William H. Ruffner Medal, Virginia Tech’s most prestigious award, which recognizes those who have performed notable and distinguished service to the university.
“Through dedication, service, and contributions to the university, he has continued to show his love for Virginia Tech,” university President Charles W. Steger said at the time. “His generosity has helped the university serve its students and the community.”
A lifelong resident of Rustburg, Va., Merryman in 1967 founded a trailer equipment and bus dealership, along with his wife, Lou. Sonny Merryman Inc. grew to become one of the nation’s most prominent bus dealers.
Over several decades, Merryman donated generously toward numerous initiatives at Virginia Tech and was a volunteer leader in several capacities. The Merryman Athletic Facility, located between Cassell Coliseum and Lane Stadium, was named for him in recognition of his generous support for its construction. An endowed professorship in the Pamplin College of Business bears his name, as do multiple scholarships.
Merryman served on boards of the Virginia Tech Foundation and the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund, and on the advisory council for the Pamplin College of Business. He was also a volunteer leader for the university’s past two fundraising campaigns. Along with his wife, he was a charter member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society of donors to Virginia Tech.
“Through his generosity and service, Sonny Merryman left a powerful, permanent legacy at Virginia Tech,” Vice President for Development and University Relations Elizabeth “Betsy” Flanagan said. “Sonny’s enthusiasm for our school was contagious, and the scope of his philanthropy was extraordinary.”
In a 2008 interview for the university’s Impact magazine, Merryman said that he had “always been told that that any time you give something you get it back threefold, and that’s always been true for me.”
Thim Corvin, Virginia Tech’s senior associate vice president for development and principal gifts, said Merryman’s attitude toward helping others was inspiring.
“Giving back – of his time and resources – was just something he did automatically and instinctively. It was a deeply ingrained part of who he was.”
Along with his wife of 60 years, Merryman is survived by a daughter, A. Patricia “Pat” Merryman; a son, Floyd W. Merryman III; and a grandson, M. Lee Merryman.
A memorial service and celebration of Merryman’s life is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m., in the Snidow Chapel on the Lynchburg College campus.
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.