2017 Torch of Liberty Award

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chose Robert Merrick and Arthur Roger to receive the 2017 A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award. Bob and Arthur embody the prestigious award’s commitment to the community. “Award recipients are people who care not just about themselves today but about the children and grandchildren of tomorrow,” says Michael Botnick, former ADL Regional Board Chair and Selection Committee Member. “They care about the greater good and translate that caring into action, they strive to build a brighter future in which all people share the fruits of democracy.”

Bob Merrick formed his own company in 1973 and then, in 1986, purchased Latter & Blum, Inc./Realtors, one of the largest and oldest, full-service real estate companies in Louisiana. After this initial acquisition, Bob acquired numerous brokerage firms and incorporated a mortgage firm, a title company, and insurance agency. Bob has dedicated much of his adult life to improving our region not only through his professional endeavors but also through various civic organizations to which he has volunteered his time. In 2015, Bob was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans. In the same year, he was honored as the Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Southeast Louisiana Council of the Boy Scouts and as the New Orleanian of the Year by Gambit Magazine. In 2014, Bob became the first Louisianan to join the United Way Million Dollar Roundtable, a national membership reserved for million-dollar donors. In 2005, the American Red Cross named Bob the Humanitarian of the Year. Bob has served as the Campaign Manager for the United Way of Southeast Louisiana and the March of Dimes. He has served on Business School Advisory Boards at University of New Orleans and University of Louisiana at Lafayette and as a Board Member for the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, Salvation Army, and WYES-TV, among others. Bob is also committed to the higher education of his employees’ and associates’ children, granting 15 scholarships each year. This scholarship fund has now granted over $500,000.00 to these deserving young adults. Bob is truly a visionary leader, who has helped Louisiana grow. His example inspires us to do the same.

Arthur Roger is the Owner and Director of the Arthur Roger Gallery, located in the Arts District of New Orleans. A native of New Orleans, Arthur worked in art galleries in the French Quarter while attending high school and college. In 1978, he opened the Arthur Roger Gallery on Magazine Street establishing a national as well as local reputation as the director of a leading New Orleans art gallery and for his efforts supporting emerging female artists, African-American artists and artists from the LGBTQ community. In 1988, Arthur moved the gallery to its current home on Julia Street. After Hurricane Katrina, Arthur played a pivotal role in the revival of the visual arts scene in New Orleans and now has a second studio – Arthur Roger@434 near his Julia Street gallery. Arthur has served on numerous boards and commissions including the Great New Orleans Foundation, Contemporary Arts Center, Louisiana Children’s Museum, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Mayor’s Arts Commission and as an officer in the New Orleans Arts District Association. He originated Arts Against AIDS, benefitting NOAIDS Taskforce, and played a leading role in Halloween in New Orleans, the principal fundraising event for Project Lazarus. In 1995, Arthur received the Paul Plauche Award for fundraising. Among other honors, Arthur received the Young Leadership Award in 1994, the Junior Achievement Role Model in 2009, and the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Award in 2016. This year, Arthur donated paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures from his personal collection to the New Orleans Museum of Art, which are currently on display in the Museum’s exhibition Pride of Place: The Making of Contemporary Art in New Orleans.

“Robert Merrick and Arthur Roger are powerful leaders, who have huge footprints in our community,” says Jonathan Lake, ADL South-Central Regional Board Chair. “Their steadfast dedication to equal access and LGBTQ rights have made New Orleans a better place for everyone, and their leadership keeps New Orleans as a cutting edge city and pace-setter on many civil rights issues.”

The award was presented at the annual A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award Dinner at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on December 5, 2017. Robert Merrick’s dinner chairs are Joseph Exnicios, Richard “Rick” Hasse, Alan and Sherry Leventhal, and Hardy Fowler, and Arthur Roger’s dinner chairs are Timothy Francis, Jack Sullivan, and Marc Behar.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination against all through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.