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Benedictine College honored the Merck family as the 2022 Benedictine College Family of the Year as part of this year’s Family Weekend celebration. The family was recognized on O’Malley Field at Wilcox Stadium during halftime of the home football game versus Graceland University. During the halftime program, the college also honored the Sisters and Monks from the founding institutions of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery and St. Benedict’s Abbey. Other Family Weekend activities included the Family Cookout Competition, Pops Concert, Family Trivia Night, a concert by pianist Eric Genuis, daily Mass, the Monk Run, the Raven Parent Rosary and a parent meeting.
The highlight of the weekend is the honoring of the Family of the Year, a distinction that goes to a family that has truly lived out the Benedictine mission through their involvement on the campus and their commitment to building a fruitful and supportive community. Dr. Michael and Kristin Merck raised a large family of 10 children in Ham Lake, Minnesota. As their oldest child approached college age in 2004, they began looking for an authentically Catholic school where his faith could grow, rather than diminish. They found Benedictine College and made the trip down to Atchison, Kansas. A recent Benedictine grad, Sarah Henry (now the well-known author and inspirational speaker Sarah Swafford), was working as an Admission Counselor and met them for a tour of the campus.
“Sarah’s enthusiasm for Benedictine College was infectious and so we invited friends in the Twin Cities area that we thought would be interested to come hear her speak about the school,” said Kristin Merck. “That evening in Ham Lake, nearly 100 interested people showed up and the word continued to spread about this gem of a Catholic school in the small town of Atchison, Kansas.”
Needless to say, their son, John, enrolled at Benedictine. He was followed by his sister Anna. The Mercks had a keen interest in careers in the medical field, so the opening of the Mother Teresa Center for Nursing and Health Education opened the door to several more of the children.
First came Elizabeth. She graduated with a degree in Nursing in 2014 and now works in a hospital on the pediatric med/surgical floor, as well as adult cardiovascular nursing. Next came Rebecca. She graduated from the Nursing school in 2016 and has found her passion working as a mental health nurse. And then it was Abigail. She graduated in 2019 with her Nursing degree, along with her now husband, David Vouk. They both work as surgical and neuroscience nurses. Another son, Andrew, also briefly attended Benedictine.
The Merck children kept coming and today, there are two currently enrolled at Benedictine. Maria is a junior pursuing a degree in Journalism & Mass Communications. Her sister, Clare, is a freshman who is considering Pre-Med and has high hopes for the proposed St. Padre Pio Institute for the Relief of Suffering, School of Osteopathic Medicine at Benedictine College.
And one remains. Paul is the youngest Merck and he is just beginning his junior year of high school. There is a good chance he will also end up being a Raven and is currently considering engineering or medicine. All told, that is 10 children, eight of whom attended Benedictine College, five of whom completed degrees at Benedictine College, two of whom are current students at Benedictine College, and one who is still a Benedictine College prospect.
“The Benedictine College experience has not disappointed, and we have happily continued to send our children there,” Kristin said. “Our gratitude for the school has only grown over the years.”
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.