Mr. and Mrs. Herbert A. Meisler have recently given the University of South Alabama $70,000 to establish a new program to be known as the Bert and Fanny Meisler Visiting Professor of History and
Through this new program, USA joins other universities who offer courses that examine the role of Judaism and of the Jewish People in Western civilization from antiquity to present time.
“My wife and I are firmly convinced that Jewish Studies will prove to be an important component of USA’s larger arts and sciences curriculum,” Mr. Meisler said. “Through its focus on important issues
of group and national identity, Diaspora, genocide and cultural survival this program will have particular relevance not only to those who seek a richer understanding of the Jewish experience but also to students of other dispossessed or minority groups.
“We are please that an outstanding and well-qualified teacher and scholar Dr. William Pencak has
been appointed as the inaugural visiting professor,” Mr. Meisler said.
“This gift enables the University of South Alabama to take a major step forward in the creation of a Jewish Studies program, an important program which the department of history and the College of Arts and Sciences has held as a priority for the last several years,” said USA Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Dr. Joseph Busta.
Mr. and Mrs. Meisler have been longtime supporters of the University and their contributions include establishing the Ripps-Meisler Endowed Chair in the College of Medicine and offering extensive support to University athletic programs. In 2006, they gave $2 million to the University as an endowment for a new student services building now named Meisler Hall in their honor. Their generous gifts to the University total nearly $2.7 million.
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 studying 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 in 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. With his 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 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 philanthropic endeavors 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. In 2011, Mr. and Mrs. Meisler both won the Distinguished Service Award from the USA National Alumni
The couple has five children -- Benjamin, Martin, Allen, Irving and Lori -- and 13 grandchildren.