Merton College was established by philanthropy and has been sustained by benefactors ever since.
Gifts and bequests have supported the intellectual and educational mission of the college for over 700 years, ever since Walter de Merton's endowment of the College in 1264. Manuscripts consulted by researchers today still bear the names of their medieval donors, while many postgraduates live in the modern accommodation block funded by Takeshi Funahashi. Mertonians are commemorated in the names of teaching and seminar rooms, and the tradition of supporting students' education dates back at least to John Wyliot's endowment of Postmasterships in the 14th century.
Among the most ancient traditions still observed by the College are the commemoration services for our Founder and Benefactors, which take place every year on the third Sunday of the Michaelmas Term and on Shrove Tuesday. During the service, the Chaplain reads the Benefactors' Prayer which lists, in the chronological order, the names of our major benefactors since the College's foundation.
The Governing Body has introduced a benefactors' scheme to reflect the gratitude the College owes to its Major Donors. Divided into tiers, the different benefactor levels are named after significant figures in the history of the College:
|£1,264 per year||1264 Society*|
(or £10,000+ for those under 30)
|£100,000+||Ella of Warwick Benefactors|
|£500,000+||Warden's Court of Benefactors|
|£1 million+||Wyliot Fellows|
|Legacy Pledgers||Founder's Society|
*Giving Levels for the 1264 society vary for recent leavers and young alumni.
Benefactors are recognised by the Governing Body, and acknowledged for the significant contribution they make to the College. Each year all benefactors are also listed in the Donor Report, unless they wish to remain anonymous. Exclusive donor events are held biennially and new members of each donor level from £25,000+ will receive a hand-written scroll welcoming them.
The College has also received over the centuries gifts from benefactors in memory of a loved one. These 'In Memoriam' gifts are warmly welcomed by the College, and are recorded in its publications. For those leaving a gift to Merton in their Will, the College has established The Founder's Society.