Wackerbarth legacy lives on in track and field scholarships

Say “Merle Wackerbarth” four times fast. Chances are by the time you do, the late ASU track and field star would have completed, in record time, a 100-yard dash. Wackerbarth, a two-time degree-earning Sun Devil education grad, ran like the wind for the Maroon and Gold for four years in the 50s, book-ended by a two-year hitch in the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC).

Jan Lund, Wackerbarth's niece, is making sure his accomplishments, on the track and in the classroom, are not forgotten. She has established the Merle Wackerbarth Endowed Scholarship from her uncle’s estate to provide annual support to students competing in ASU track and field.

Wackerbarth was the 1951 Border Conference champ in the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes and best-in-conference-class the same year on the ASU four-man one-mile relay. He was an All-American choice in 1955 and earned Sun Devil letters in 1950, 1951, 1954 and 1955.

While in the Marine Corps, Wackerbarth ranked No. 9 in the United States in the 400-meter dash and was on a 440-yard relay team that set a USMC record in 1953.

Equally noteworthy, off the track, Wackerbarth forged a gold-medal career in education. He helped establish Phoenix Carl Hayden High School, where he starred in many positions, including teacher, counselor and coach.

“My uncle’s passion was track and field and education,” says Lund, a Phoenix native who has worked for the Arizona Republic for 32 years. “They were paramount in his life, and he wanted some of his funds to go to ASU. This scholarship is a great tribute to him and to the students who will benefit from his generosity and passion.

“The endowment will carry his name in perpetuity while providing support to outstanding student-athletes who are capable of the highest academic achievement. What a wonderful way to support higher education at ASU and invest in tomorrow’s leaders.”

Judith Pillon, associate vice president for estate and gift planning at ASU’s Foundation for A New American University, says such estate gifts are an important part of the advancement of ASU’s positive transformation of higher education.

“Bequests are a vital source of support for the university, and we are grateful to philanthropists like Jan and her uncle Merle who have the vision and desire to secure the future of ASU.”

Stephen Des Georges
ASU Foundation