Can we please stop naming places, buildings and things after people who are still alive?
Certainly there is something to be said about having a person actually get to see his or her name put onto an edifice, field, facility or whatever, but it seems there have been ample local examples that serve as cautionary tales.
The most recent came Wednesday when the Wyoming Seminary Board of Trustees Executive Committee announced Mericle Field would get another name.
The reason is obvious. It was named after Robert Mericle, the mega-developer awaiting sentencing for his part in what remains one of Luzerne County’s most shameful sandals, commonly called “kids for cash.”
Mericle was the “cash” part. He landed the chance to build the private, for-profit juvenile detention centers at the heart of the scandal and doled out $1.8 million to two Luzerne County judges as “finder’s fees” for helping his company secure the work.The judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan (now in jail), were in the ideal position to make sure the county placed juveniles in the facilities, thus the “kids” part of the scandal.
Mericle is awaiting sentencing in federal court.
There are few who can honestly deny the tremendous contributions Mericle has made and keeps making to worthwhile institutions such as Wyoming Seminary. Some are relentless in criticizing him, but his contributions are real, however much tainted by the seedy side of his wheeling and dealing. The urge to name a field after him is understandable.
Understandable until you consider that the youngsters the field is meant for are the same age as many of those sent to the Mericle-built detention and treatment facilities he, and the judges, profited from.
Wyoming Seminary did the right thing in dropping the name. Other organizations have been forced to consider doing the same for places named after patrons who ended up facing criminal charges, including former state Sen. Raphael Musto — awaiting a trial that could include testimony by none other than Mericle — and former state Sen. Robert Mellow, who went to prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
The lesson is simple: A person may do plenty of good that warrants commemoration with a name on a building, bridge, park or other item, but their capacity for doing ill doesn’t end until their last breath.
Thank them while they’re alive; memorialize them after their gone.