Merrell Noden ’78
Frank Wojciechowski

Merrell Noden ’78
Merrell Noden ’78
Frank Wojciechowski

We are heartbroken to report the death from cancer May 31 of our colleague and friend, Merrell Noden ’78, a longtime PAW contributor. For about two decades, Merrell wrote the stories of some of Princeton’s most captivating people and programs, always with eloquence and heart. 

You could tell a lot about Merrell from his articles. He was as curious as they come, happily taking on any topic we could throw at him — from word puzzles to Vietnam to mathematics geniuses. He loved running and literature and brought them together, once writing a piece for Sports Illustrated about Charles Dickens’ obsession with race-walking. He was full of good will, gratitude, and wonder, peppering his drafts with exclamation points that sometimes were deleted during editing, lest all that enthusiasm boil over. 

About Professor Simon Morrison *97’s research on the composer Sergei Prokofiev, Merrell wrote: “Lucky Prokofiev! Few geniuses have had the good fortune to be served by someone as diligent and honest as Morrison.” In another piece, Merrell recalled the famous math-department teas: “What teas those must have been! It wasn’t just professors and grad students who came, but undergrads, visiting fellows, and brainiacs from the Institute.” He wrote about the digitization of books, noting that some people were questioning why we needed a bricks-and-mortar library at all. Merrell needed two exclamation points to comment on that prospect. “Aaaaarrhh!!” he wrote. “If, like me, you recall the libraries of your childhood as magical places, this comes close to sacrilege. Those libraries were warm and safe; you could spend entire afternoons opening books onto worlds you never knew existed, with the only threat being the sharp tongues of zealous librarians.”

As I re-read his emails and stories to write this note, I kept smiling. 

Over the last few years, as Merrell endured the energy-sapping ups and downs of cancer treatment and it became harder for him to get around, he continued to take on PAW articles, saying they helped him feel connected to the campus and people he cared about. He submitted two pieces, well done as always, for our June 3 issue, then followed up with a warm note about the interesting assignments. His wife, Eva Mantell, said later that Merrell was quite ill when he was working on the last piece but cared deeply about completing it.

There is no number of exclamation points that can capture how much Merrell will be missed.

READ MORE: A selection of Merrell’s stories for PAW

Lives: William Scheide ’36
He savored books, music, and justice — and worked to preserve them all (Feb. 4, 2015)

At Play in the Fields of Math
Manjul Bhargava *01 finds the magic in numbers (Nov. 12, 2014)

Composer at Work
The critics said electric guitar and string quartet were oil and water. Steven Mackey proved them wrong (Jan 16. 2013)

Extra Point: Recruited Athletes and Other Unmentionables
(March 21, 2012)

Flyin’ Hawaiian
On a campus full of large personalities, ‘Master Jeff’ has one of the largest (March 23, 2011)

Lessons Learned at Nassau Hall
In a new book, William G. Bowen *58 reflects on his years as Princeton’s president (Nov. 17, 2010)

Finding a Place: Emmet Gowin
A portrait of the artist (Oct. 21, 2009)

Becoming Cicero
A middle-aged novice actor meets today’s students — and loves it (July 15, 2009)

Do-It-Yourself Scholars
No backing from the ivory tower. Plenty of grit. (April 22, 2009)

A New Chapter for Libraries
Humanists ponder what will become of libraries in the digital age (Jan. 28, 2009)

A Life at Princeton
Robert Goheen arrived on campus 70 years ago, and went on to remake the place he loved (Nov. 8, 2008)

At Home in Two Worlds
The first African-American to join the permanent faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study, Danielle Allen ’93 works in both a scholar’s paradise and the real world outside (March 5, 2008)

Admission obsession
A Little League parent gets an early (and alarming) look at the frenzied world of college applications (Dec. 12, 2007)

Math Mecca
Once again, these are heady times in Fine Hall (Nov. 7, 2007)

Unmasking Prokofiev
A Princeton scholar goes to great lengths to uncover the true works and personal story of the Russian composer (Sept. 26, 2007)

What’s the Big Idea?
Professors Cornel West *80 and Robert George, ideological opponents, are unlikely partners in this popular freshman seminar (June 6, 2007)

A War Still With Them
The war in Vietnam ended three decades ago, but for many of those who fought it – or chose not to – it’s never really over (March 23, 2005)

Fitzgerald’s First Love
Before Scott married Zelda, he was smitten by a young debutante who became the model for Gatsby’s Daisy (Nov. 5, 2003)