Lawrence Edwin Mertens, a friend of Florida Institute of Technology founder Jerome Keuper who became the university’s first marine biology instructor and later a major benefactor with his wife, passed away on Dec. 16, 2017. He was 88 and will be dearly missed by the Florida Tech community.
A Melbourne resident, Mertens first came to Brevard County in the early days of the space race. He was chief scientist for RCA and assigned to work on the Missile Test Range. It was during that time that he met fellow engineer Jerome Keuper, who had earlier founded Brevard Engineering College, which later became Florida Tech. Keuper soon realized the depth of Mertens’ expertise and asked him to serve as the school’s first instructor for marine biology.
The connections between Mertens and Florida Tech only grew from there. He designed and ran the first summer field course in the Bahamas for underwater photography, and Mertens later was instructor for the university’s first course in optical oceanography. He was also the first Florida Tech faculty member to author a college-level textbook, on in-water photography.
Years later, in 2015, Mertens and his wife Margarete established the Lawrence and Margarete Mertens Endowed Fellowship, benefitting graduate students in the College of Engineering and Computing.
At Florida Tech’s Fall Commencement on Dec. 16, Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay conferred an honorary doctorate on Lawrence Mertens. His son, Thomas Mertens, accepted on his behalf.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, at Buggs Funeral Home, 2701 S. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne.