Lu Merritt, senior director of development for intercollegiate athletics, who has managed the university’s sports fundraising since 1994, will retire in July 2015. A national search will be conducted for his replacement.
“Lu’s tenure has coincided with a tremendous period of growth and success for Virginia Tech athletics, and that is no coincidence,” said Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Flanagan, the university’s vice president for development and university relations. “His skill at building and maintaining relationships with our donors has been extraordinary. When you look at our beautiful football stadium, our basketball practice center, and other athletic facilities that have been added or dramatically improved over the past 20 years, you see the results of numerous gifts that Lu helped make possible. The tremendous impact he has made on his alma mater is also reflected in the accomplishments of thousands of student-athletes who have benefited from scholarships Lu helped to secure.”
Over the course of Merritt’s career at Virginia Tech, the scope of athletic fundraising at the university has grown by more than 600 percent. Contributions to the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund averaged just over $3.3 million between fiscal years 1990 and 1994. By comparison, such contributions averaged nearly $23.7 million between fiscal years 2010 and 2014.
Fueled by donations, the university has improved its athletic facilities significantly since 1994. Major projects on which Merritt played a key fundraising role include expansions to Lane Stadium and construction of the Hahn-Hurst Basketball Practice Center, Shott Media Center, and Football Locker Room Facility. He also oversaw fundraising that made possible construction, now underway, of the Indoor Practice Facility for football.
“When he became the leader of the effort to raise money for the Virginia Tech Athletic Fund, it was a perfect match,” said Jim Pearman, who serves as the fund’s president and is on its executive committee. “He has a unique blend of abilities. He is able to communicate effectively with donors and be an efficient manager of the fundraising team. You only need to look around the Virginia Tech sports complex to see the results of the successful fundraising done by Lu and his team.”
Merritt is a former captain of the Virginia Tech men’s tennis team who earned his bachelor’s in management in 1968 from the Pamplin College of Business. After returning from Army service in Vietnam, he worked in banking for 23 years before joining his alma mater’s fundraising team.
“I had a plan in mind that when I turned 70 I would retire, and I will turn 70 in June.” Merritt said. “Virginia Tech gave me an opportunity to play tennis in college. It gave me an opportunity to be successful in my banking career. To have the opportunity to come back and finish the last 20 years of my career working for the school that I love has been special. When I got into this business I realized how special it is to be able to build relationships with donors who want to help Virginia Tech get better, and getting to know our student-athletes just makes you want to work that much harder for them.”
Merritt also said: “I have been fortunate to work with an outstanding team of individuals in the Hokie Club office. Their dedication and commitment to Virginia Tech is impressive. What we have accomplished over the years is a team effort.”
As an active member and former president of the National Association of Athletic Development Directors, Merritt has given presentations about Virginia Tech’s programs at national conferences, and he has mentored numerous professionals in his industry.
“I have known Lu for nearly 20 years,” said Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock. “He was and is a leader in our industry and has had an extremely positive and significant impact on the growth and success of Virginia Tech athletics. However, he also had time to serve as mentor to many, including me, who were coming up through the ranks of our profession. He is a good friend, an even better man, and a true Hokie. He will be missed greatly.”