Jim and Helen Merrit have a long-standing dedication to NIU where, between them, they taught more than sixty years. From his wide experience in teaching and association with professional societies, Jim arrived at the conviction that American education would “take a giant step forward” if professional educators focused on the problem of how identity with philosophy of education can and should function in the personal and professional lives of teachers. Helen supports this fund in honor of his interest in perpetuating dialogue and research on this concept. Helen earned her undergraduate degree in English from Colby College in 1942 and her M.A. in art education in 1956 from Rockford College. In 1962 she received NIU’s first M.A. degree in fine arts. Helen taught art in local schools. She traveled to Japan with her husband on business and her interest in Japanese art bloomed. She taught in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at NIU and has authored three books on Japanese art.