Herbert A. and Fanny R. Meisler of Mobile have donated $2 million to endow the University of South Alabama’s new student services building, which will be named Meisler Hall in their honor.
The Meislers have been longtime supporters of the University over the years, including establishing the Ripps-Meisler Endowed Chair in the College of Medicine and offering extensive support to University athletic programs. Their gifts to the University now total $2.6 million.
“The University has done wonders for the city,” Mr. Meisler said. “It’s the best thing we have in the city. We are so fortunate to have it because it has had a tremendous economic impact through bringing people to the community and through its payroll -- not to mention all the health care it has provided.”
The Meislers’ most recent gift will be the first endowment in the history of the University to be designated for the support of ongoing quality enhancement of a building. The endowment will enhance the current and future quality of student services by helping to meet the special and emerging needs of this facility – to include future expansion, renovation, new equipment and special building enhancements.
Meisler Hall will be of primary importance for every USA student because of the vital student services located there, which include: Admissions, Financial Aid, Career Services, Enrollment Services, International Student Services, Registrar, New Student Orientation, Student Accounting, Veterans Affairs and other services.
The Meisler gift is part of Campaign USA, the University’s first comprehensive fund-raising campaign that seeks to raise $75 million for USA programs, faculty, students and construction over the next three years. Campaign USA was launched in March, and, to date, has raised $40.8 million.
Campaign USA will enrich all aspects of USA, from its academic colleges and schools to its hospitals, athletic programs, libraries and campuses. The money raised will be used to fund such items as undergraduate and graduate scholarships, professorships, classroom and laboratory equipment, and health care innovations. Funds will also be used for capital enhancements to USA’s track and soccer programs, a University archives building and campus bell tower.
USA President Gordon Moulton said the Meisler gift to Campaign USA is important for the growth of the institution and the experience of students.
“The Meislers have been outstanding supporters of the University for years,” Moulton said. “Meisler Hall will be of primary importance to every University student, and it will have a lasting impact on student life on this campus. Every student will flow through that building.”
Moulton also said the Meisler gift sets a wonderful example for other University supporters across the area.
“We need good examples for this campaign,” Moulton said. “The Meislers understand the importance and value of this University to this community. They set an example that helps us phenomenally.”
Dr. Joseph F. Busta Jr., Campaign USA director and USA vice president for development and alumni relations, said the Meisler gift to the campaign will build on USA’s tradition of leadership and take the University into a new level of growth and student satisfaction.
“The Meislers have given an extremely unique and important gift through their endowment of the new student services building,” Busta said. “Because of their gift, Meisler Hall will always be well-maintained, upgraded and modernized.”
James A. Yance, a 1970 alumnus of USA and prominent Mobile attorney, is leading a group of community and national volunteers during Campaign USA. Civic, political and business leaders from Mobile and Baldwin counties, and beyond, will be supporting USA throughout the three-year effort.
“I’d like to thank the Meislers for their generosity,” Yance said. “Campaign USA has tremendous momentum throughout the community, and it will continue to build as we move forward.”
The campaign is led by some 50 outstanding local and national business leaders, including Mr. Meisler.
The Meislers said their commitment to philanthropy comes from the example of their families, who were always giving to others. Mr. Meisler said he remembers his grandparents always welcoming new immigrants to the house and sending them on their way with some money to help them get settled.
“His philosophy has always been, ‘You cast your bread upon the water and it comes back two-fold,” Mrs. Meisler said of her husband.
Mr. Meisler praised his wife’s support and encouragement of philanthropy throughout the years.
The Meislers met while students at the University of Texas. Mrs. Meisler, a native Mobilian, was born in an apartment over one of her family’s stores, Ripps & Ripps, at Dauphin and Water Streets. After attending the University of Alabama for a year, she transferred to the University of Texas, where she met Mr. Meisler. She lived at his family’s boarding house. Mr. Meisler graduated with his degree in business in 1949.
After they married in 1949, the Meislers spent the next 14 years in Houston, where their five children were born. During that time, he founded Consolidated Furniture Industries and served as president of the Southwestern Furniture Marketing Association. He also developed Richmore Shopping Center in Pasadena, Texas, and Gulfway General Hospital in Houston.
In 1964, the Meislers decided to move their family to Mobile, managing the Ripps family’s Gulf Coast Jewelry and Specialty Company. Together with brother-in-law Harold Ripps, Mr. Meisler launched RIME Companies, an apartment construction and management company that he still operates today.
The Meislers have been active in civic, philanthropic and religious circles. Mr. Meisler has served five different terms as president of the Mobile Jewish Welfare Fund. He has also held leadership roles in the American Cancer Society, Heart Foundation, Alabama Eye Bank and Alabama Apartment Council. He also served as president and building fund chairman for the construction of Ahavas Chesed Synagogue in Mobile.
He has also served on the boards of the Mobile Airport Authority, Central Bank of the South, Altus Bank, Colonial Properties Trust, Mobile Community Foundation, Providence Hospital Foundation, Better Business Bureau, and Boy Scouts of America.
Mr. Meisler has received numerous honors for his philanthropy including the Mobile Jewish Community’s “Man of the Year” award in 1972 and 1987, the Alabama Eye and Tissue Bank’s “Person of Vision” in 1988, and the City of Mobile’s Philanthropist of the Year in 2000.
The couple has five children -- Benjamin, Martin, Allen, Irving and Lori -- and 13 grandchildren.
The University of South Alabama
Since its founding in 1963, the University of South Alabama has been one of Alabama’s fastest growing universities, currently enrolling more than 13,300 students in a wide range of academic programs in Allied Health Professions, Arts and Sciences, Mitchell College of Business, Computer and Information Sciences, Continuing Education and Special Programs, Education, Engineering, Medicine, and Nursing. The University has awarded more than 57,000 degrees.
In addition to teaching and research, USA is one of the largest health care providers in the Mobile region, with its faculty physicians and two hospitals – Children’s and Women’s and USA Medical Center – involved in more than a quarter million patient encounters annually.