America’s Top Donors

by Merrin Gallery Press

Edward Merrin was included in The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s directory of America’s top contributors and their beneficiaries. It was on account of the New Yorker’s recent gift:

Tufts University (Medford, Mass.) has received a pledge of $30-million from Edward H. Merrin, founder of the Merrin Gallery, an antiquities gallery in New York, and his wife, Vivian, for financial aid. Mr. Merrin graduated from the university in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and is a former trustee. The couple’s three sons also graduated from Tufts. Before this gift, they donated nearly $9-million to the university.

The philanthropy blog also featured him in another article, though perhaps the best discussion of Edward and his gift to Tufts comes from The Tufts Daily (the independent student newspaper of Tufts University):

[Edward] Merrin’s gift is part an estate-related plan that will come from his will, making up 20 percent of his estate. It will fund the Merrin-Bacow Scholarship, in honor of University President Lawrence Bacow.

Edward and Vivian Merrin. Credit: Sam Merrin (via The Tufts Daily).

“Larry will be our partner; it’s really being done in his honor because I’ve had such admiration for him,” Merrin told the Daily.

Bacow expressed his appreciation for the Merrins’ gift, noting that it would support a cause that is especially close to his heart.

“I am moved beyond words that Ed and Vivian would make such a gift in my honor,” Bacow said in an e-mail to the Daily. “That they would do so to support financial aid — my highest priority as president — only makes it that much more meaningful. Countless future students will have the opportunity to study at Tufts because of the Merrins’ generosity. They are the best.”

Merrin explained that the desire to make a meaningful difference motivated the couple’s decision to make this commitment to the university.

“Here is the possibility we have of changing the world,” Merrin said. “Imagine having a child be the first in his family to go to university. It means it impacts not only him, but his children, his children’s children, and in that way change the world. That appealed to us … This will put a substantial amount of money in the endowment, and that would be able to pay for a considerable number of students.”

Merrin added that he and his wife decided that the time was appropriate to make this donation because of rather than in spite of the difficult economic climate.

“When the recession started, my wife said to me, ‘Now that money is tough to get, now is when we ought to step up to the plate,'” he said. “I agree with her, and we had the money, and now was the time. When things are good … it makes it very easy to give. Now it’s tougher to give and we thought this is what we ought to do.”

This $30 million gift is only the most recent of the Merrins’ contributions to Tufts.

“He’s been a long-time supporter of Tufts, and he’s been very active in fundraising around his past reunion years,” Director of Advancement Communications and Donor Relations Christine Sanni said.

Merrin has been involved in all four of Tufts’ previous capital campaigns, beginning in 1979. The Merrins in conjunction with Edward’s 55th reunion gave $3 million to endow the Seth Merrin Chair in the Humanities in the School of Arts and Sciences (A&S), currently held by Professor of Philosophy Ray Jackendoff, a noted linguist and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies. They have given a total of nearly $9 million to Tufts over the years.

Beyond his financial contributions, Merrin has also lent his efforts to support Tufts’ cause, serving as an overseer for the School of A&S and a member of the Board of Trustees.

Explaining his continued involvement with Tufts, Merrin — who credits the school for his personal and professional success — noted that Tufts has meant a lot to him.

“This is my 60th class reunion, I’ve been on the Board of [Trustees], I’m now a trustee emeritus, I’ve had three children who went to Tufts, I’ve had two grandchildren go to Tufts — it’s always meant an awful lot to me,” he said.

“Still my best friends are my best friends from college … I’ve kept very close with [University Professor Sol Gittleman], I’ve been close to all the presidents, it’s just part of my life really,” Merrin said. “It’s my 60 years reunion, so that’s 64 years involved with the university; that’s a long time.”

Sanni noted that this most recent contribution was hugely beneficial to the Beyond Boundaries campaign. “It’s a pretty significant gift, one of the most significant of the campaign,” she said.

Merrin is the founder of The Merrin Gallery, Fifth Avenuery, New York.