Longtime Malibu resident Ronald Merriman, the only surviving charter member of The Optimist Club of Malibu, is being recognized for a lifetime of serving others. Last weekend, Merriman was awarded the Malibu Lifetime Achievement award by the Optimists in a surprise ceremony at his Point Dume home.

“The motto for the Optimist Club is ‘friend of youth,’ and as a teacher, a principal and counselor of the schools in Malibu for over 30 years, you definitely exemplify a friend of youth,” Mona L. Kyle, president of the Optimist Club of Malibu, said of Merriman in an interview with The Malibu Times.

Merriman said he was surprised after seeing everyone and receiving the award.

“I was surprised that I was being honored so beautifully,” Merriman said later. “I had some good letters from teachers saying I was worthy of getting the award. I was honored to be honored by a lot of people. I’m really thankful for receiving it.”

Founded in 1960, The Malibu Optimist Club provides positive role models and mentors to young men of Malibu. Like most organizations, The Malibu Optimists Club was forced to resort to virtual meetings via Zoom due to the pandemic. 

Merriman has been a charter member for 60 years. Despite his advanced age, Merriman was able to join the meetings even after they went virtual. However, in July 2020, Merriman suffered a stroke that affected his eyesight and made it difficult for him to continue to attend the virtual meetings. 

Merriman, a U.S. Army veteran who served in WWII, started teaching in 1954 in Santa Monica. He then became principal at Juan Cabrillo School. Merriman, the six-decade Malibu resident, retired in 1990 as Webster’s principal.

The Optimist Club organized a few drive-by visits last year to keep in touch, including visits to see both Merriman and fellow veteran Tom Lubisich, to honor both of them for their service. This year for International Day of Happiness on March 20, the club presented Merriman with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kyle said that the Excellence in Education Award is given by the Optimists annually to honor local teachers who have demonstrated that they are a “special friend of youth” by exhibiting an exemplary dedication to serving youth and a passion for assisting students to reach their full potential. That award will now be known as the Optimist Club of Malibu “Ronald E. Merriman” Excellence in Education Award.

In conjunction with the award, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati recognized Merriman’s contribution to the school community.

“This award from the Malibu Optimists is incredibly well deserved, as you [Merriman] have embodied that organization’s vision and mission, having dedicated your life to bringing out the best in students and helping them develop to their full potential,” Drati wrote in a letter presented to Merriman. “Even following your retirement in 1990, after 35 years of dedicated services, you continued to commit yourself to the well-being of our students and professionalism of our staff by serving as a substitute teacher and administrator for the next 10 years. Your peers highly regarded the meaningful connections you made with students, families, and the entire SMMUSD community. We thank you for your years of hard work, sincere consideration for your colleagues and dedication to excellence.”

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