When real estate executive, philanthropist and New Orleans native Bob Merrick thinks about the city he loves, the city where he has built the Gulf South’s largest full-service real estate brokerage firm, he sees one university at its center: the University of New Orleans.
That’s why Merrick, chairman and CEO of Latter & Blum, Inc., and his company are responsible for more than $2 million in charitable donations to the city’s only publicly funded research institution over the years. This week, Merrick announced his latest gift of $300,000 for student scholarships.
Merrick’s donation enables the University to exceed its $1 million fundraising goal in an initiative that University of New Orleans President John Nicklow first announced last November. It also challenges other donors to raise another $500,000 for student scholarships.
“The University of New Orleans is educating the population of the city of New Orleans,” Merrick said. “UNO is near and dear to my heart. It fills a huge gap in this city in raising people from their bootstraps.”
Merrick’s support for UNO goes back many years although he is not a graduate of the institution. He has chaired the UNO business school advisory board and the UNO Foundation board of directors. He endowed the Merrick chair in real estate and helped create the Max Derbes II Professorship in real estate. He has given substantially to support student scholarships and graduate programs in coastal sciences and engineering.
In addition, Latter & Blum, Inc., has been the title sponsor for the popular annual Dr. Ivan Miestchovich Economic Outlook and Real Estate Forecast Seminar.
In 2014, UNO recognized Merrick’s contributions by awarding him an honorary doctorate. This fall, the University will also dedicate and name the patio adjacent to the recently improved water feature near Earl K. Long Library in honor of Merrick and Latter & Blum.
“Bob Merrick’s commitment to the University of New Orleans and our students is unparalleled,” said President John Nicklow. “His devotion to the institution and his belief in our mission are unwavering. His generosity will ensure that we continue to provide access to academic excellernce. We are so thankful that he is one of our most visible and loyal advocates.”
Bill Chauvin (B.S., ’74), a UNO alumnus who co-chaired Nicklow’s $1 million scholarship effort along with Merrick, said that the University has a long history of providing a means of educational and economic advancement for its students. Himself a first-generation college graduate, Chauvin said he can speak first-hand about the importance of the student scholarship support that gifts like Merrick’s provide.
“The rising cost of higher education impacts those who can least afford it,” Chauvin said. “This effort is going to help defray that. It will ensure that we can continue with our mission that is to bring students to this university who will advance, graduate and become really successful citizens of our city.”
Jeff Bush, director of development for UNO, said Merrick’s extensive contributions to the University serve as “leadership by example.”
“We are very pleased with the far-reaching support we have received for this effort,” Bush said. “The local business community and our alumni family are both stepping up in a very big way to show their devotion for UNO and their interest in our students.”