A tribute to Merv Loya, administrator and devoted friend of Oregon Law

Merv Loya

Merv Loya, a long-time administrator and a devoted friend of the Law School, passed away Wednesday, January 22. He was 79. 

Merv was a graduate of the University of Illinois Law School and was a student of former Oregon Law dean Gene Scoles, who previously taught at Illinois. On graduation, Merv joined the staff at Multnomah County Legal Aid and after many years of successful work he moved to Eugene to become the Director of Lane County Legal Aid Services. He guided Lane Legal Aid’s development through the ups and downs of federal funding resources that Legal Aid programs across the country faced over the years.  Lane County’s program, under Merv’s direction, was recognized as one of the best in providing legal services and engaging in law reform projects.  He helped the program grow into the important legal service organization that it is today, now a part of Legal Aid Services of Oregon.   

I met Merv when he became the Director of Legal Aid in Eugene. He and I worked together to create the Civil Law Clinic where our students gained valuable legal experience representing low-income clients, the first law clinic in Oregon. Bruce Smith, an outstanding Oregon Law alum, joined us as the supervising lawyer of the students. These were the early years of law school clinics and they were often met with unease by the practicing bar, not to mention, law faculty.  Merv’s work at Legal Aid in Portland and Eugene, and his work with the Oregon Bar paved the way for an easy inauguration of our clinic.  

Merv was such a gentle and kind man.  He cared greatly about access to justice and was always a supporter of the Domestic Violence Clinic. He truly had a good heart and was gracious to people and institutions alike.  May he rest in peace."
- Merle Weiner, Philip H. Knight Professor

Years later, he joined the Johnson and Harrang law firm in Eugene as the Managing Partner. After some time in that position, he was hired as the law school’s first full-time budget director in 1986.  This was an important moment for the law school. Up to then we often didn’t know how much money was left, if any, in the various budget accounts. Merv brought needed discipline to our finances. Essentially, in budgeting terms, there was the period of “BL - Before Loya,” and “PL - Post Loya.”  

Merv was subsequently asked to serve as assistant dean and director of Career Services. This was a position for which Merv was very well suited. He was interested in people and his mid-western upbringing turned him into a friendly, pleasant easy person to talk with.  He was a good listener too. Merv’s activities on State Bar matters from his first years in Oregon also meant that he came to know many lawyers throughout the state. Merv built an excellent Career Service team that met and counseled our students to help them develop career plans.  He threw himself into the placement job with vigor, traveled around the state meeting with hundreds of Oregon lawyers, and developed a strong program of law firm interviews on campus. Merv got to know virtually all our long-time alumni and maintained relationships with our more current graduates. I always marveled at how Merv was a magnet at our alumni events.  Our graduates across the years would come up to say hello and thank him for his career guidance and catch up on what was happening at the school. 

Merv became a good colleague of the law faculty. He knew that in trying to interest prospective employers to hire our grads, he also needed to persuade them that Oregon Law was a school on the move upward with its faculty engaged in important legal research and providing an excellent legal education. To do that he talked and learned what faculty were doing; he got involved in most school activities and events and volunteered much of his time and energy. He strived to get faculty to attend alumni events as he knew that such contact greatly assisted in developing job opportunities and alumni giving.  Merv also recognized the important value of internships and externships for our students, and his early work in this area paved the way for the excellent program we have today. Everyone who came to know Merv liked him. 

“Merv was a rock - a man of compassion, kindness, honor, and without a negative bone in his body. He helped our law school make important strides forward, but of greater significance Merv helped people. Oregon Law has lost one of its giants.” 
-John Bonine, Bernard B. Kliks Professor

He worked closely with former dean, Dave Frohnmayer in teaching in the Legislative Internship Program. In his last several years at the law school, Merv was a special assistant to then dean, Margie Paris.  Before his retirement, he was an adjunct instructor and even after he retired, he continued working with our development team because of his immense knowledge and friendships with alumni. Merv served an impressive 21 years at Oregon Law. 

Merv was an avid bicyclist, jogger and walker, and it was only several years ago that Merv and his son bicycled across the U.S. from Virginia to Oregon. He had a few tales to tell about that experience. Merv was one of the kindest persons I’ve known and became a good personal friend. His hard work on behalf of low-income persons and the Oregon Law School was typically low key, never seeking accolades for his many accomplishments. In the process, he established a distinguished record of public service second to none.  He will be sorely missed.  

A memorial service for Merv will be held Sunday, March 1 at 1:30 pm at Knight Law Center on 15th and Agate.  

By Dominick Vetri, Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon School of Law