A Gift to Tulane Provides a Home for a Lifetime



To describe Merryl Israel Aron as a remarkable woman who led a remarkable life would be something of an understatement. The native New Orleanian was a skilled golfer, who, in the era before the women’s professional tour even existed, won 12 city championships, seven state championships, two Gulf Coast championships and two Deep South championships.

She also surrounded herself with remarkable people. During World War II she put her talent to good use on and off the links. Affable and witty, she struck up friendships with both Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Together, the three played golf across the country to sell war bonds.
Merryl was also a shrewd businesswoman, helping to run the New Orleans headquarters of Leon Israel & Bros., Inc., a coffee brokerage, while her husband, Sam Israel, Jr. was stationed abroad in World War II.

Just as remarkable as her many talents and winning personality, was her lifelong commitment to Tulane and to philanthropy. The Merryl and Sam Israel Jr. Environmental Sciences Building on Tulane’s uptown campus is named for her and her first husband.

When considering a real estate gift to Tulane, Merryl was able to bring together her financial acumen and her generous spirit.
She and Sam Israel Jr. had purchased their Garden District mansion on First Street in 1967. A board member of the Hermann-Grima House, Merryl was a committed advocate of historic preservation in New Orleans. Along with her husband, she restored the Italianate villa to its original splendor, removing decades of interior and exterior alterations.
Her grandson Robert Israel remembers the home well. “It was built back in 1860. It’s a spectacular home.”
Thirty years after purchasing it, she decided to donate the home to her husband’s alma mater, Tulane.
But she wasn’t ready to move out of the home she’d so lovingly restored just yet.

Tulane’s Office of Gift Planning provided an ideal solution. By creating a usufruct arrangement, Merryl Aron was able to both donate her home to the university and continue to live in it for the remainder of her life. She and her second husband Jack Aron were able to enjoy this stunning home for many years, all while knowing they were contributing to the future of Tulane as well.

In addition to continuing to live in the home, Merryl was also able to take an immediate tax deduction when she gave the house to Tulane.
Her grandson Robert Israel reflected on the advantages of the usufruct relationship, “In this certain situation, she retained not only usufruct, but any economic value she garnered from the home. She could have moved out and rented that house to somebody else.”

When she was initially considering the gift, Robert Israel reports that his grandmother brought up the real estate gift with him and his brother. “She asked us first if we wanted the home. But, it’s a large home, 8,000 square feet. Neither my brother nor I wanted to take on the expense and the time to renovate the home. It being such a big piece of property and an older property, to move into and renovate that house is a big undertaking.”

The arrangement worked out for all parties. He said, “Of course, my family has always supported Tulane, both the Aron and Israel families have been big supporters of Tulane over the years.”

Merryl Aron was able to remain in her beloved home until she passed away last December at 102. Robert reflected with a hint of admiration in his voice, “Altogether she lived in that house for almost 50 years.”

Gift Planning’s Senior Director of Development, Deborah Marx, was thrilled with the gift. “Merryl Aron had the foresight and astute financial sense to combine several gifts to support the Israel Environmental Sciences Building over many years. Her outright gift and her lead trust almost 20 years ago made it possible for Tulane to construct the building during her lifetime, and now the proceeds from the sale of her home will allow us to maintain this building for the continued benefit of the students and faculty who use it. We are so grateful for Merryl’s philanthropic creativity and vision. She is a true inspiration.”