Duke’s flags lowered: Merrell Patrick, who helped start the IT department, dies

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that Merrell Lee Patrick, Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, passed away on August 8, 2022 at the age of 89. Merrell played a pioneering role in founding Duke’s computer science department half a century ago.

Merrell came to Duke as an assistant professor of mathematics and director of the Computing Center in 1964.

Having been a part-time student at Stanford University where George Forsythe had established a computer science department, and having obtained a doctorate. A student at Carnegie Mellon where Alan Perlis held the chair of computer science, Merrell was well aware that Duke needed to move towards establishing a computer science department.

Together with Tom Gallie and other colleagues at Duke, UNC, and NC State, Merrell established the Triangle Universities Computation Center in 1965, the first multi-university regional computer center based on remote computing, with support from the National Science Foundation.

The work and advocacy of this group eventually led to the founding of Duke’s Computer Science Department in 1972. Merrell was also instrumental in recruiting Carnegie Mellon’s Don Loveland as the department’s new chairman. The rest, as they say, is history.

Merrell continued to serve the department in many ways, from research to teaching, serving as director of graduate studies, acting president, and senior undergraduate adviser. He helped recruit many professors for Duke computer science, and he had always been a strong advocate for the department. He was also an ardent Duke basketball fan. Merrell retired in 1996. While many of us did not ride his time at Duke Computing, we are all still living in his legacy today.

You can read more about Merrell in his obituary. He is survived by his wife, daughter, son, sister, three stepsons, as well as two granddaughters and two step-granddaughters. Our thoughts remain with his family.

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