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“The Fifth Beatle”

June 30, 2021 - -
IT Director John Merchant demonstrating the Lightboard.

John Merchant is more than content to make an impact in the background, but those who work with him know being named a Cardinal Spirit Award recipient was long overdue. “He has not only been here, he has made himself available to help me and others I know, in every way possible to get our teaching and other responsibilities done efficiently and effectively,” said Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, Bob Meyers. “John has a wealth of knowledge, and he shares it in such a gracious and pleasant way. I am proud to call him a colleague and friend.”

John started at the College in the late ’80s working with the Bureau of Economic Research. “The economists were contracted to study the future of the local economy. For four or five years, I was building databases and running regressions [for the professors].” John was already miles ahead of the College when it came to working with computers—at the time, the systems on campus were a far cry from the integrated network of today. Little by little, professors and other staff started to come to John for their computing needs. “My boss at the time [economics professor Dr. John Nelson] told me to help [the professors] as much as I could.” Several years (and Deans) later, the College formalized a contract which ultimately saw John transition from working with the Bureau to working for UofL.

Award-winning Support

John’s current title is Director of IT Services at the College, but his work is far from limited to IT. In many ways, his support role extends to everything from running A/V for events in the PNC Horn Auditorium to shooting MBA student professional headshots to operating the latest technology for the College faculty, the integrated media’s lightboard. An illuminated glass chalkboard, the lightboard allows professors to face their students while recording video lectures for online classes.

“It’s a great tool for our faculty as it helps them keep eye contact with their audience. There are just some concepts our professors are always teaching. Recording them here gives our students an additional resource. It’s another way we can reach out to them—especially with the pandemic and online classes.” Being a support resource has meant that John has been in the office throughout most of the pandemic, ensuring the essential tech operations were working while the rest of the College was working from home.

Spirit of Success

His ability to offer support while wearing numerous hats has made him indispensable to every unit on campus. “He’s the Fifth Beatle of the [Communications and Marketing] department,” says graphic designer Jill Wegenast. “John’s like our very own George Martin—doing all the things which allow us to be a successful team.”

Even as he reflects on being a Cardinal Spirit Award recipient, he is still humble and unassuming to his impact. “I just got an email from [UofL President Neeli Bendapudi] about being named a Cardinal Student Champion. It’s some campus-wide thing,” laughs John. “I don’t really work with the students, but, well… it’s very nice for them to mention me.” The voice trails off, eager to talk about building upgrades or new classroom technology awaiting students. For John, it’s not about the spotlight—instead, it’s about lighting the way for others at the College of Business.