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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Merrifield served Oahu's poor

Advertiser Staff

A memorial service will be held Friday for the Rev. Donald Merrifield, a former Honolulu clergyman whose lofty academic achievements and high-powered career as a university president didn't stop him from ministering to those most in need.

Merrifield, 81, died Feb. 25 in San Jose, Calif.

He was born Nov. 14, 1928, in Los Angeles. Merrifield earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology, a master's degree from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He taught physics at Santa Clara University and the University of San Francisco and was a consultant to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., according to his Jesuit colleagues.

Four years after his ordination in 1965, Merrifield was named president of Loyola University in Los Angeles, which under his leadership merged with Marymount College to become Loyola Marymount University. After 15 years in that post, he was university chancellor from 1984 to 2002.

In 2003, Merrifield was assigned to the Jesuit community in Honolulu and served the Mānoa-Punahou Catholic community, the Hispanic community, a prison ministry and the Newman Center at the University of Hawai'i-Mānoa, where he led retreats for students and parishioners. He also served on Chaminade University of Honolulu's board of governors.

Using his own money and donations from friends, Merrifield provided breakfast twice a week to a couple dozen homeless people at Ala Moana Park, colleagues said. That ministry became known as "Fr. Don's Kitchen" and inspired parishioners at Sacred Heart and St. Pius X churches to expand the outreach program to feed more than 360 people a week at several parks.

Merrifield is survived by his brother, Peter Merrifield of Honolulu.

A memorial Mass will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Newman Center. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to "Fr. Don's Kitchen" in care of the Newman Center, 1941 East-West Center Road, Honolulu, HI 96822.