If one were to boil down the lives of Jon and Emily Merryman into a single theme, it would likely be that of a serving heart. From serving bowls of chili mac to hosting events for thousands, virtually all that the Merrymans do is an intentional act to serve others.
The couple met in 1997 after a tornado whipped through Arkadelphia, damaging countless homes including that of a high school senior, Emily. A few blocks away students at Ouachita Baptist University put together the first ever Tiger Serve Day. Teams went to local homes handing out flashlights and chili mac. One of these exchanges occurred between what would become one of Ouachita’s most iconic couples: Jon and Emily. The future Merrymans.
This seemingly simple act of kindness was one that would help catapult Jon and Emily into lives of serving others, particularly within the Ouachita Student Foundation (OSF).
OSF is a student-based organization that raises scholarship money for students by having members volunteer on campus, host guests and events and by holding fundraisers.
Jon Merryman is the Director of OSF and of Alumni Relations. During his busy times, he easily sacrifices up to eighty or ninety hours a week. His wife, Emily, works full time at Taylor King Law and volunteers countless hours to help with finances, data-keeping, leadership, and wherever OSF needs her.
Jon grew up in Missouri and was first drawn to Ouachita after he saw Tiger Tunes as a high school student. While at OBU, Jon participated in multiple musical ensembles, OSF and was a member of Kappa Chi.
Emily was born and raised in Arkadelphia, and very much ready to come to OBU. As a student, she was a member of OSF, Campus Activities, color guard, EEE and she was a Kappa Chi “little sis.”
Both Jon and Emily entered OBU as music majors but soon switched to mass communications. After graduating the two worked for a time in Nashville before coming back to Arkadelphia in 2011 where Jon took the position he has now and Emily worked for a time in the development office with fundraising and finances, before working at the law firm.
OSF has grown in many ways since Jon and Emily’s arrival, but its values remain the same. To Jon and Emily, one of the most important aspects of OSF, while they were students and to this day, is that it was and is predominantly student-led.
“We want the students to get the leadership experience and the ownership of leading it by themselves with some good guidance,” Emily said.
One of the biggest changes that has been made since Jon’s hiring is the combining of OSF with Alumni Relations. This has been a positive way for OSF students to connect with alumni for graduate school, jobs, internships and other opportunities.
“It’s a lot of work being in OSF so we want there to be perks and that’s one of them: to develop a close connection with the alumni,” Jon said.
By finding strong leaders within OSF, Jon and Emily are also creating a more dedicated future alumni. Jon believes that the students who get involved in school become the “top motivated ‘We love Ouachita’ kind of folk,’” who will continue to give back and lead the path to progress even beyond graduation.
OSF members are like family to Jon and Emily.
“We cry when they cry and we’re proud of them when they do great things,” Emily said.
And within this family, it is all give and take. From students babysitting Jon and Emily’s puppy to Jon officiating the wedding of a previous member, the ties made in OSF are ties that go beyond regularly scheduled meetings.
“Jon and Emily mean the world to me and have gone past being my leaders, but have grown to be my inspirations,” said Alec Edmonds, president of OSF.
However, Jon and Emily want students to remember that OSF is not for everyone.
“It’s not always glamorous. When it’s hot in that concession stand and you really would like to watch the game, you have to remember it’s because one of your friends is getting to stay here,” Jon said.
That is why it is so important for students to recognize if OSF is a right fit for them or not. Ultimately, Jon and Emily want to find students who truly want to serve and students who will improve themselves by being a part of OSF.
Jon’s biggest goal for OSF, would be to find enough sponsorship money every year for Tiger Tunes so that “every dollar [earned by Tunes] goes straight to scholarships.” But it seems like Jon is already on the right track. Since his hiring, Tiger Tunes has been raising over $40,000 more for scholarships every year thanks to simple changes Jon has made.
Anyone who knows Jon and Emily will tell you that they are two of the most dedicated and hardworking people they know even when things get overwhelming.
“I love this place and what I get to do so much,” Jon said. “Even in the midst of being stressful, there’s always something fun that I get to work on.”
Junior OSF member Olivia Brown has said that “Both of the Merrymans always have smiling faces,” which is a huge encouragement, “and they have a huge impact on campus!”
This love and the dedication to smile through the hard work is exactly what OSF looks for in its student leaders.
When it comes to OSF and extracurricular activities in general, Jon has one thing to say: “Do it. Get involved and try it.” Jon and Emily both believe that OSF and the opportunities it presents are not to be missed.
“I would not be where I am–I would not have met my husband–without faculty and staff pouring into me when I was here,” Emily said.
By Scarlett Castleberry, staff writer