Mervin Grant Filler (1873-1931)

Portrait of Mervin Grant Filler

Mervin Grant Filler was born in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania on October 9, 1873 to Peter and Elizabeth Filler. He attended grade school in Boiling Springs before entering the Dickinson Preparatory School. In 1889, he enrolled in Dickinson College and graduated as valedictorian in 1893. During that time he became a member of Phi Kappa Sigma and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. In addition to his A.B. degree, Filler received his M.A. in 1895.

Following graduation, Filler took a position as an instructor in Greek and Latin at the Preparatory School. He also continued his own studies, taking classes at the University of Chicago in the summers of 1900 and 1901 and later at the University of Pennsylvania in 1906. In 1899, he became the professor of Latin at the College and would retain this position for the following 29 years except for his short graduate study leaves. In 1904 he was elected as dean of the freshman class and in 1914 President Morgan promoted him to dean of the College. On June 30, 1928, Filler was elected as the 18th president of Dickinson College following Morgan’s retirement.

Filler was inaugurated on April 26, 1929 and became the first layman president in Dickinson College history. His first order of business was to appoint Dr. Montgomery Sellers, a classmate of Filler's and a member of the faculty since 1895, as dean of the College. Filler also established the “Dickinsoniana Room” in West College, which contained the portraits of all the former presidents as well as other influential people in the institution's history. He also renovated Conway Hall as a freshman residence hall and oversaw the outfitting of the new Alumni Gymnasium.

In January 1931, Filler contracted influenza at a convention of the Association of American College Presidents. He remained ill for several months and his condition had deteriorated so much by March that he was moved to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. He died there on March 28, 1931. A popular teacher and colleague, his untimely death was deeply mourned. After Filler's death, Morgan returned as acting president until a replacement could be found.

Filler married Mildred Beitzel of Boiling Springs in June 1893 and the couple had three children: Donald, Mildred, and Mary, all of whom graduated from Dickinson. He was well known locally for his service to the Rotary Club and the Y.M.C.A. During the First World War Filler served as an associate secretary of the War Personnel Board at the Y.M.C.A. in Washington, D.C.

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Dickinson College Archives
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