Merritt Helfferich was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1935, and came to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1958, where he earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Early in his career he worked as a ballistic meteorologist and flight safety officer at the Poker Flat Research Range, and in 1969 as an ice technician on the SS Manhattan's transit of the Northwest Passage. He has a Masters Degree in Public Administration focused on science policy and organizational design from the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. His thirty year career with the University of Alaska Fairbanks included a variety of research, education and policy positions including: head of Technical Support Services and Associate Director at the Geophysical Institute, Assistant to the Fairbanks Campus Chancellor, and Interim Associate Vice President for Human Resources for the University of Alaska statewide administration. He worked at the Geophysical Institute from 1966 to 1993, and held the title of Associate Director for University Relations from 1985 to 1993. He also worked to improve Native educational opportunities and achievement in Alaska, and served as coordinator of the Consortium for Alaska Native Higher Education. Starting in 1997, Merritt operated his own consulting business, Innovative Consulting, Inc. As an avid outdoorsman and boating enthusiast, in 1968, Merritt helped create the Great Tanana River Raft Race between Fairbanks and Nenana, Alaska. In 2000, he participated in the morning storytelling session at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and shared some of his memories of working there in the early years. Merritt Helfferich passed away in 2019 at the age of 83.