Broadcast Legend | Philanthropist | Inspirational Speaker | Best-Selling Author
Horrific child abuse
Emancipation at age 14
Domestic violence as an adult
About Merri Dee
As an award-winning broadcaster and Author of a new Memoir (2013), LIFE LESSONS ON FAITH, FORGIVENESS & GRACE, Merri Dee heads MD Communications, a consulting practice that inspires individuals and employees to rise above challenges and seize control of their destinies. She is a celebrated motivational and inspirational speaker, a highly popular panelist, moderator and master of ceremonies, a life-changing career coach, a successful fundraising strategist, and a fierce advocate for violence prevention.
As a trailblazer in both radio and television, Merri Dee has served as a newscaster, talk-show host, and staff announcer. Later she served as Director of Community Relations at superstation WGN-TV and as advisor to other Tribune owned TV stations.
Having hosted countless parades, telethons, and television specials, she is considered an acclaimed interviewer and television host. Merri Dee has shared the stage with well-known entertainers such as Lou Rawls, Stevie Wonder, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Wilson, Bernie Mack, Frank Sinatra, and hundreds of other celebrities. Her success as a telethon host and fundraiser has helped well-deserving non-profit organizations achieve their financial goals. For more than 30 years, Merri Dee served as the co-host and presenter of the nationally syndicated “UNCF Annual Evening of Stars,” raising tens of millions of dollars for college scholarships. And she leveraged her relationship with the McCormick Foundation to raise more than $31 million for Chicago Children’s Charities.
However, her support extends beyond raising funds. She advocates for organizations that address critical social needs including issues surrounding adoption and foster care, violence prevention, education, and women’s issues.
Notwithstanding Merri Dee’s efforts and successes in the public arena, many lifelong Chicagoans, still remember her heart-wrenching story of being kidnapped at gunpoint, shot, and almost killed by an assailant. Given last rites twice, overcoming paralysis and blindness, Merri Dee not only lived, but survived to become an inspiration to others overcoming various traumas. The account of her ordeal was the subject of several network programs, including 60 Minutes, the Phil Donahue Show, and Oprah. This life-changing experience led her to being the force behind the Illinois General Assembly’s passage of the first Victim’s Bill of Rights. Illinois’ law has become the model for similar legislation in every state in the United States.
Her survival in the face of death is also the catalyst behind her impassioned advocacy for violence prevention. In addition to speaking on this issue, Merri Dee lends her expertise to CeaseFire, a highly successful evidence-based violence prevention organization.
In recognition of her professional and civic accomplishments, Merri Dee is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences Silver Circle Award; the National Gracie Allen Award from the Alliance for Women in Media; United Negro College Fund’s President’s Award; and the Adoption Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She has been recognized by the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame. Most recently, Merri Dee was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’ Hall of Fame and honored by the National Women in Film. She has received honorary doctorate degrees from Tougaloo College, Jackson/Toogaloo, Miss. and Illinois’ Lewis University.
Merri Dee was appointed to serve as an official U.S. Army Ambassador. Appointed by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to serve on the Mayor’s Council on Women’s Issues, and by Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn to The Serve Illinois Commission, a volunteer advocacy delegation and recently obtained Senate confirmation as a Commissioner, Human Rights Comm. Ms. Dee is currently the Illinois State President, AARP, which has 1.7 million Illinois members.