Honorary Canon, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles
Knox Life Trustee
When Merle Minks '39 passes by the campus of St. Margaret's of
Scotland Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, California, he can't
help but admire his surroundings.
"Just to see the students in their tartan plaids and jackets is quite an inspiration," he says.
He has a right to feel personally proud of what he sees.
Minks, a retired lawyer for Gulf Oil Corporation and a Knox Life Trustee, got involved with the school and its affiliated church when classes and church services were held in a trailer. Today, the 1,200-student St. Margaret's School is a prestigious preparatory institution that sends its graduates to some of the best colleges in the country.
In 2004, Minks, 88, was honored for more than 20 years of service to both St. Margaret's school and church by being made an Honorary Canon in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, an honor typically bestowed by the Bishop upon clergy.
"As the church and school were developing, Merle was one of the key people the entire community looked to and said, 'What do you think?'" says the Reverend Canon Robert Edwards, Rector of St. Margaret's Church. "Merle is revered everywhere he goes. He's kind of a patriarchal figure in that way, like a grandfather."
Minks grew up in Fisher, Illinois, raised in a religious faith that he says has never wavered. He came to Knox upon the recommendation of his high school basketball coach, Clyde Campbell, who graduated from Knox in 1924.
"I was a small town boy, a farm kid from a community of 750 people, and Knox broadened my horizons," he says.
Minks worked for Gulf Oil for 33 years-the last 11 of which he served as its general counsel-before retiring with his wife to California in 1981.
"Some friends of ours were starting a mission church in a trailer there," he says of San Juan Capistrano. "It was on just a little spit of land, and they used the trailer for school during the week. There were just a few students. I told my wife, Brooks, that I didn't know if any church around here wanted us, but I could see one that needed help."
At the time, San Juan Capistrano was just beginning to develop as a suburb, and there was no option for private education in the immediate area. St. Margaret's School got started when a priest ran an ad in the newspaper looking for parents who wanted their children to wear uniforms, have a Christian curriculum, and regularly attend chapel.
When the school's board of trustees was established in 1984, Minks chaired the committee that wrote the school's bylaws. He served as the Bishop's representative on the school board and executive committee, and he chaired a joint facilities committee to ensure strong relations between the church and the school, which operate as separate entities. He also served for seven years as the Bishop's representative for the church during its developing years.
"I had a very heartening, very satisfying experience," says Minks, who recently moved to a retirement community in Aliso Viejo with his wife. "It's wonderful to see how strong both the church and the school are today, how much they've grown in a relatively short time."