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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

MERRITT, Jacqueline

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The 1978 recipient of the First Citizen Award, Jacqueline Merritt led efforts in the arts and human services.
MERRITT, Jacqueline. (Dubuque, IA--Dubuque, IA, Mar., 1995). Jacque and her five children were "The Merritt Singers" who performed "The Sound of Music" and other musicals for local groups. (1) She majored in music and communications in college and once sang for occasions including musicals and weddings. (2)

The birth of her daughter Amy influenced many of her future plans. Merritt's concern for her severely mentally handicapped and blind child, brought them both to Dubuque's AREA RESIDENTIAL CARE, INC. When Jacque found ARC only accepted older children, she found volunteers and the class was expanded to accept clients. Jacque eventually became a director on the ARC board and also vice-president. (3) In a 1992 interview she remembered that singing to her daughter was a way of teaching her to talk. That conviction that arts played an important role led her to establish Very Special Arts across Iowa. This later merged locally with Dubuquefest in 1988 to form DUBUQUEFEST/VERY SPECIAL ARTS. (4)

Merritt, the first woman to receive the First Citizen Award, joined with others in 1970 to form the Five Flags Civic Center Committee. She served as chairwoman of the Five Flags Building Committee and FIVE FLAGS CIVIC CENTER executive committee. Merritt also served on the governing boards of AREA RESIDENTIAL CARE, INC., UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE, Mercy Medical Center, Dubuque-Jackson County Mental Health Center, DUBUQUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, and FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF DUBUQUE.

Merritt was responsible for beginning the Dubuque Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and was active with the United Way, Foster Grandparent Advisory Board, DUBUQUE VISITING NURSE ASSOCIATION and the Iowa Association of Retarded Citizens. In the fall of 1977, Merritt was named chairperson of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education Committee of Arts for the Handicapped. The same year she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Dubuque JAYCEES. In 1978 she was presented the City Council Outstanding Service Award and was the recipient of the FIRST CITIZEN AWARD.

Continuing her activities, Merritt was appointed in November, 1980 by the Iowa Arts Council to a panel to review applications for the council's major general grants program. The panel was also to assist in making funding recommendations to the council. (5)

In 1982 Merritt was one of eighteen individuals selected from a group of 2,300 to be honored by President Ronald Reagan at the White House. The award cited her for establishing the Iowa Committee of Arts for the Handicapped in 1977. The awards are sponsored by ACTION, the federal volunteer agency and Volunteer, a private organization that works with volunteer agencies. (6)



1. Merritt, Stephen Barry, her son, email, July 31, 2019

2. Schwar, Kathy, " 'First Citizen' Jacque Merrit: Always Giving," Telegraph Herald, December 28, 1978, p. 14

3. Ibid.

4. Glindinning, Mary, "Award Honors Festival Founder," Telegraph Herald, May 7, 1995, p. 7

5. "People of Note," Telegraph Herald, November 16, 1980, p. 43

6. Darlin, Damon, "Dubuquer Among Volunteers to be Feted at White House," Telegraph Herald, April 9, 1982, p. 20