Mary Lou Merkt stepped into her new role as President and CEO of The Woodlands at Furman on January 1, but she’s not new to the community. Merkt arrives from Furman University, where she served as Vice President for Finance and Administration. When she started at Furman in 2003, she was just in time to join early discussions about developing a continuing care retirement center (CCRC) near the Furman campus.
“CCRCs and universities make wonderful partners,” Merkt says. According to her, “The campus provides countless learning, cultural, and athletic opportunities for CCRC residents,” and that partnership works both ways, benefiting Furman students and residents alike.
One of the best examples of that partnership is Furman’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which Merkt had a hand in developing. Residents at The Woodlands can take courses on a wide range of subjects from Shakespeare to photography, bridge, and yoga.
Residents can also take advantage of concerts, plays, athletic events, library resources, and dining on the Furman University campus. Like to stay active? “Furman’s campus is extremely walkable,” Merkt says, “so opportunities to exercise are plentiful.”
For Furman students, participating in internships at the community can be a valuable part of their educational experience. The Woodlands also allows them opportunities to perform for others and enjoy relationships with “adopted grandparents,” according to Merkt.
Merkt’s ties to The Woodlands go beyond her professional bond of more than 15 years. Her father was a resident at The Woodlands for two and a half years.
“I witnessed the fine care he received from the compassionate caregivers who worked with him,” Merkt says. “It will be an honor to work with the dedicated professionals at The Woodlands.”
Committed to Improvement
“Because I was involved in the development of The Woodlands,” Merkt says, “I’ve felt a kinship to the community since long before it was a reality.” Going forward, she is committed to ensuring The Woodlands continues to provide residents with all they need to enjoy life to its fullest. She likes the partnership that the community has with Furman University and she wants to keep making it even better.
“We’ll take a progressive approach to future development, always with an eye toward what’s best for our residents,” Merkt says. “I often hear comparisons made between The Woodlands and other CCRCs in our area. While there are several quality alternatives, one thing that is uniquely ours is our proximity to and our relationship with Furman University.”