Longtime North Campus journalism professor David Merves is retiring after 30 years at Miami Dade College.
Merves, who will reach the 30-year-mark in February will not be officially retired until August 1, but for all-intents-and-purposes will be done working at the end of this semester. He will be using “bank points”—which are credits earned for extra classes taught over the full workload of five courses per semester—in order to go on leave until his official last day.
“I can go on; I feel good. But I feel it’s time,” said Merves, who will turn 59 on Dec. 19.”Thirty years, I feel, is a real milestone.”
During his tenure at MDC, Merves has been responsible for nourishing journalism’s young up-and-comers. Two of his former students have gone on to win a Pulitzer Prize; many others have found homes in bustling newsrooms such as The Dallas Morning News, the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald, The Bergen Record in New Jersey, The Dayton Daily News in Ohio and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.
“Merves really inspired me to pursue journalism. I remember I took his courses when the journalism industry was struggling greatly,” said Laura C. Morel, who attended MDC from 2007 to 2009, and is now a crime reporter for The Tampa Bay Times. “But he always remained optimistic about the field. And I just always thought to myself, if he speaks so highly of journalism now, despite all the layoffs and cutbacks that newspapers are undergoing, then I would take a chance and strive to become a reporter anyway. And I did, and I owe him a lot for that.”
At MDC, Merves was adored by his students for his hokey yet lovable jokes, his trademark smile that is wider than the Florida Turnpike, and for spilling red ink over not-so-perfect copy. He previously served stints as a reporter with the Miami Herald, and as a copy editor at the Sun Tattler, a now defunct daily newspaper that was based in Hollywood, FL.
Merves, who earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in journalism from The Ohio State University, eventually entered academia, teaching part time at Broward Community College, and Florida International University, before coming on part time at MDC. He started full-time at MDC in 1984 in a faculty position teaching journalism.
For the first fifteen years at the College, he also served as adviser to The Falcon Times—the former student newspaper at North Campus, which merged to become The Reporter. Merves entered the fray at a very tumultuous time—legendary adviser Jose Quevedo had just left the paper after an argument with the director of student activities, taking most of The Falcon Times staff with him to Wolfson Campus to form the Metropolis.
“It was one of the most incredible times of my life and the story is about teamwork, talent, and [Merves’] incredible optimism, humor and willingness to guide with a gentle hand,” said Joan Kite, who served as Merves’ first editor and is now a copy editor for The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tennessee.
The Falcon Times went on to win a regional Pacemaker award that first year under Merves’ guidance. The paper would win numerous state and national awards under his watch. In 1991 he was inducted into the Florida Community College Press Association Hall of Fame.
“Because of his teachings and leadership, I have become the person that I am today,” said Alex Mena, who served as editor of The Falcon Times in 1993 and is currently the deputy sports editor at the Miami Herald.
Merves feels he has left the future of journalism at MDC in capable hands. One of his former students, Manolo Barco, who served as editor of The Falcon Times in 1994 and eventually worked as a reporter at The Dallas Morning News and the Miami Herald, is the current adviser to The Reporter.
“I learned the basics of journalism from him, but even of more importance is the quality person that he is,” Barco said. “David’s kindness will always permeate through our newsroom. He is one of the most humane people I know. He has a way of believing in you that makes you feel confident you can accomplish anything. I met him when I was 19—that type of belief he has in young people is paramount.”
Feeling confident that journalism will continue to thrive at MDC, Merves, who has also taught a student life skills class, college prep writing, and a leadership course at the College, plans to enjoy his time off.
He says that his boss, Josett Peat, chairperson of the English and Communications department at North Campus, jokes that Merves is only retiring after seeing his wife Arlene—who worked at the college for 33 years—retire last December.
“She doesn’t have to get up so early, and she enjoys herself. So, I envision the same thing,” Merves said.
During retirement, Merves plans to travel, read the newspaper, play tennis and dedicate a large amount of time on what he calls “the 3 Bs”: Broadway, beach, and baseball.
He enjoys relaxing by the beach (or pool), is a theater aficionado (mainly musicals) and is an avid baseball fan (he and his wife have been Marlins season ticket holders since 1996).
“Professor Merves has been a faculty icon at North Campus, given his keen sense of purpose in teaching students the ‘tools of the trade’ in English and journalism, not to mention the mentorship he’s extended to students over the years,” said North Campus interim President Malou Harrison. “He’ll certainly be leaving a positive mark here at the College; such shoes are always hard to fill.”