Before Dale Merrill arrived on campus July 1, he already knew there was one fundamental aspect of the University that he was passionate about.
“One of the things that I was really attracted to at Cal State Fullerton is their honest commitment to diversity,” he says. “It is not something that it’s doing because it is popular or a trend — because it is a trend in higher education — but in the case of this University, it is a real commitment to the community.”
Merrill has a long track record in community involvement. During his 22 years in Seattle, he was recognized for his community leadership with a 2001 Rudy, a national award for community leadership and advocacy, and with the Corporate Council for the Arts’ Unsung Hero Award in 2002. He was then the artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theater, a professional dance company and nonprofit community arts organization.
Before arriving at Cal State Fullerton, he served as dean of Chapman University’s College of Performing Arts. “When this position opened up — there are not many Cal State deanships that open up that fit my background — it just seemed like I should throw my hat into the ring,” he says.
Merrill’s background in both academia and dance — he earned a B.F.A. in ballet from the University of Utah and an M.F.A. in dance from the University of Washington, and has more than 20 years of choreographic credits — have prepared him for this position. “Dancers have to be, and are trained to be, incredibly collaborative.”
An active choreographer and dance master teacher who is often asked to teach in studios and schools across the country, Merrill is hoping to be involved in the Department of Theatre & Dance when possible, maybe even choreographing a piece in the near future. Also on his agenda: to “wake everybody up.”
“We need to remind people of the amazing accomplishments that our college’s faculty, students and alums are doing out in the world,” he explains. “The more I research and the more I find, I’m just astonished and blown away by the accomplishments of our alumni and faculty.”
He adds: “I’m very excited to be here. I think it’s a really good fit for me and for the college. I’m looking forward to a long tenure here and am hoping to leave my mark.”
Merrill also tips his hat to those College of the Arts leaders who came before him: interim dean Jim Taulli and deans Joe Arnold and (the late) Jerry Samuelson. “They all really contributed to this college and left it in a great place. I’m so appreciative of that, so I’m looking forward to taking what they started and going even further.”