Merri holds a BA in Latin American Studies from Newcomb College. She is originally from Staten Island, New York and attended public schools. She studied in Mexico during high school and after her freshman year at Newcomb. After graduate school, she moved to Chicago with her husband, Mitchell Ex. She began her career as a bilingual community organizer and in 1977 became the executive director of Erie Neighborhood House. After, she was a program officer for the Borg-Warner and Sara Lee Foundations and a consultant for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. In addition, Merri was the Vice President of Donors Services for The Chicago Community and the interim CEO of the Chicago Foundation for women. For the past several years, she was the president and CEO of Family Focus before retiring in 2019. She looks forward to spending time in Mexico during the winter and enjoying this new journey in her life.