Guest column/Louis Berkman leaves behind a legacy of generosity

Last month, this world lost one of the most generous and kind-spirited men I have ever had the privilege of knowing – someone whom I admired and respected on both a personal and business level. So it is with a heavy heart that I must now try to find the words to pay tribute to such a selfless gentleman.

Louis Berkman could have easily said goodbye to this Ohio Valley. He could have left behind the city of Steubenville for perhaps a luxurious lifestyle offered in cities such as Paris or Rome. After all, he had the wealth and the means available to him, along with the wisdom and business sense to make it anywhere in this world. And yet, he chose to stay right here, where it all began – giving back in spades to the hometown he adored.

I am proud to say that Eastern Gateway Community College has been blessed to be among those recipients to whom he generously gave some of his hard-earned savings. Since 2003, the Berkman Foundation has contributed more than $100,000 toward student scholarships at Jefferson Community College and EGCC, with 64 unduplicated scholarships being distributed throughout the last five years alone.

Students who receive this scholarship embody characteristics which Berkman strongly believed in – hard-working dedicated students who would not let anything deter them from obtaining their goal in order to achieve their dream. I believe he would be proud of each and every one of them.

His foundation also reached out to us and presented EGCC with $15,000 toward a chemistry lab and $20,000 toward our building fund.

There is no doubt in my mind that our college is significantly better because of these gracious gifts. But it isn’t just the monetary donations for which I am thankful.

I am grateful for the compassion and appreciation Berkman always showed for even the smallest gesture presented to him. For instance, I would have peaches delivered to his office every year, as I knew he loved them. It certainly wasn’t anything grand or eccentric, but he always took the time to write and thank me for my kindness. Peaches. He was just that appreciative of the small things in life.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge a portion of his obituary which briefly touched on the time he presented a deed for the underlying coal rights on 28.4 acres of land in Toronto for the purpose of building a new school. It was stated that deed was conveyed for “$1 and love.” One dollar. because Louis Berkman knew that you simply cannot put a price on a child’s education, as it is not for sale.

In my opinion, anyone who can understand this is a genuinely special person.

May God bless you, Mr. Berkman. You will be greatly missed and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

(Meeks is president of Eastern Gateway Community College.)