Merrill and Mark Shugoll's Full Bio

Merrill and Mark Shugoll have been the co-CEOs of Shugoll Research, a DC area-based marketing research company, since 1984. The company recently re-branded and is now called Limelight Insights by Shugoll. Early in their joint careers, they conducted a research study for an arts organization examining why many corporations choose to support causes other than the arts through their philanthropy. While the Shugolls understood these reasons, they felt these companies failed to realize how important the arts are to a community. They decided then that the arts would be their own philanthropic cause.

The Shugolls realized that arts organizations had the same needs as corporations for research to understand and grow their audience, but often did not have the resources to pay for these services. Shugoll Research began donating research projects to arts organizations nationally, placing a special emphasis on those in the Washington metropolitan area. More than 100 arts institutions have benefitted from their generosity.

As the company grew, so did Shugoll Research’s ability to support the arts in other ways. Merrill Shugoll is a long-term Board member of Signature Theatre. Her other philanthropic interests include clean energy and the environment and she serves on the Board of the international non-profit CLASP, the Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program. Mark is currently on the Board of Round House Theatre, the George Mason University Center for the Arts (Past Chair), and the Business Committee for the Arts. Previously he served on the Boards of Arena Stage (Past Chair), Theatre Communications Group (TCG), and the Helen Hayes Awards.

Over the years, Merrill and Mark created a series of programs to share their love of the arts—particularly theatre—with younger people, encouraging students to attend arts events both now and throughout their lives. Their most well-known program is ArtSpeak!, which has brought both national and local artists into public schools over the past 20 years. ArtSpeak! has presented 99 shows featuring over 200 artists who have spoken about their careers, answered students’ questions, and performed for schools. Artists that have appeared include Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara, Laura Benanti, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Billy Porter, Lea Michele, Megan Hilty, Jason Robert Brown, Marvin Hamlisch, Stephen Schwartz, Donna Migliaccio, Sherri Edelen, Lawrence Redmond, Natascia Diaz, Will Gartshore, Eleasha Gamble, Nova Y. Payton, Erin Weaver, Erin Driscoll, and Bobby Smith.

The Shugolls have created several other programs to excite students about the arts. Their TheaterTrips! program underwrites theater tickets for students in elementary, middle, and high school to attend age-appropriate theater programs. Additionally, the Shugoll Research Voice Scholarship Fund offers BIPOC students from lower income families the opportunity to take private voice lessons and audition for spots in the most prestigious school choirs.

Merrill and Mark Shugoll are honored to receive the J. Watkins Distinguished Service Award because of the wonderful example Mr. Watkins set for arts leadership and the innovation of Signature Theatre in the arts community.