Sybil Mervis


Bicentennial Medal (2020)
Partners in Philanthropy (2015)
Herman B. Wells Visionary Award
IU Foundation President's Medallion (2013)
Presidents Circle Laurel Pin (2013)


Sibyl Stern Mervis' philanthropic journey began when as a Brownie Scout, she helped make tray favors for hospitalized veterans. After she and her husband, Lou, moved to Danville in 1958, Mervis got involved in her local neighborhood as a way to meet people. Soon after the first vaccine for rubella was licensed in 1969, Mervis advocated for a countywide rubella inoculation program for pre-school children. Mervis has sat on the Danville Public Library Board of Trustees since 1980, and served as vice president and president for many of those years. As president, she helped spearhead the two-year "Bring the Dream Alive in '95" effort to raise community funds to help build a public library.

In addition, Mervis has served on the boards of the Danville Symphony Orchestra, Leadership Danville, the Vermilion County Museum, the American Cancer Society, the League of Women Voters, Junior Service Club, Lakeview Junior Auxiliary and the Cub Scouts. She currently serves on the cemetery committee for the Jewish section of Spring Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum.

Mervis has also been the recipient of other honors including the Woman of Achievement Award from the Danville branch of the American Association of University Women in 1993 for chairing the renovation/conservation committee of Congregation Anshe Knesset Israel, volunteerism in Danville schools and years of organizing symphony concerts for children; the ATHENA Award from Vermilion Advantage and the Danville Woman of the Year award given by the Business and Professional Women's Organization in 1997; and the Woman of Distinction Award by the Green Meadows Girl Scouts in 1998. In 2012, Mervis was chosen for the "First Citizen Award" from the American Business Club

In 2002, Mervis and her husband were honored by the Danville Public School Foundation for their contributions to education. Among other things, Mervis pushed to start the Motivating Academically Talented Students Program for gifted students, and the couple sponsored a number of low-income minority students to attend preparatory schools. The Mervis Family Foundation also has provided thousands in scholarships to Danville Area Community College students through an endowment.

Mervis' generous spirit stems from her religious practice. Both she and her husband are guided to fulfill the Jewish principle of "tikkun olam," which means to heal the world. Their diligence in applying this principle to their personal and public lives has not only led to their engagement in the Danville community, but also to their lifelong leadership and service on behalf of Indiana University. They have provided exceptionally generous support of the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University. In addition to establishing the Lou and Sybil Mervis Chair in Jewish Cultural Studies, three scholarships for undergraduates in Jewish Studies, and the Louis L. and Sybil S. Mervis Overseas Study Scholarship, they have served as members of the Jewish Studies Advisory Board for more than 30 years. The Mervises have galvanized other major donors to support the Jewish Studies overseas study scholarship campaign, resulting in 10 endowed scholarships.

Their commitment to IU has also benefitted the Verona String Quartet at the Jacobs School of Music, the Hematology/Oncology, Glaucoma Research and Education Fund, the Feigenbaum Professorship of Cardiology at the School of Medicine and the Hillel Center at IU. Mervis is a member of the Women's Philanthropy Council at Indiana University. The couple was awarded the IU Foundation's President's Medallion for their steadfast service and loyalty to IU. In 2020, Mervis was awarded Indiana University's Bicentennial Medal in recognition of her distinguished contributions and longstanding support of the university.