Ag Alumni Profile - Merl Filler '56 W U

Posted: October 3, 2012

Merl Filler is not your average fire fighter. He is a smoke jumper; a highly skilled and trained individual who parachutes from a plane into deep forests to extinguish threatening wildfires. Inspired by the wonders of Pennsylvania forests, Merl Filler chose Wood Utilization at Penn State. He has extensive experience in forestry and its various pathways.

Career: Co-Owner of Filler King Company

Jena Sigel, Ag Alumni Relations Intern and Animal Sciences major, talked with Merl Filler '56 Wood Utilization about his experiences throughout his career. Filler has experienced life to the fullest, from gaining knowledge about his passion for forestry, jumping out of planes to fight wild fires and even writing literature on his experiences.

1.    How has being a Penn State, College of Agricultural Sciences alumnus benefited your career?

Penn State is a great place with great training. The knowledge I gained in wood engineering lead me to build my own business of twenty-four years. It made me independent and successful. I watched my own cash flow and without Penn State I wouldn’t have made it on my own. A combination of a background like mine, and experiences I gained at Penn State is what has been the most beneficial in my career.

2.    How have you stayed connected to Penn State since you’ve graduate?

I stay connected in various ways through brochures, newsletters and connecting with classmates. I also have contributed to the Department of Forestry (Ecosystem Science and Management) Scholarship, benefiting current students in their degrees at Penn State.

3.    What is your favorite Penn State memory?

My favorite Penn State memory is going to Whipple Dam, a lake near the Penn State campus. Going with my friends to relax and swim at the lake are some of my most treasured memories. I also have fond memories of being the Forestry class President. I also enjoy reconnecting with my Penn State buddies every year in Idaho to go elk hunting.

4.    What advice would you give to current students?

You should stay focused on your career. I see so many people go to different career choices that they don’t create a pathway to something in particular. You should make a goal for yourself to get the job you want, gain knowledge and good references.

5.    What characteristics are needed to be successful in your career field?

Stick to your passion. You shouldn’t fear failure, don’t even think about it.

Filler co-owned the Filler-King Company, a laminated wood-beam factory which he sold to a large corporation. Now retired, Filler enjoys writing about his various experiences as a smoke jumper and has published, “Two Man Stick, Memoirs of a Smoke Jumper.” He is currently working on more interesting forestry stories.

In college, Filler was a member of the Forestry Club and was a co-chair on the Forestry Ball committee. He was also a brother of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. Filler enjoys spending time with his wife and family of five children, ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren, telling stories of his experiences in the forestry industry.

For more information contact Jena Sigel, Alumni Relations Intern at