These UB grads turned their passion for the university into a generous gift for students who share their same love for UB.
When Bill (BS ’65) and Rhea (EdB ’67) Berger picture the UB undergraduate they want to support with their endowed scholarship, they see what they call an "active participant.”
“Someone taking advantage of everything UB offers and giving it back to their fellow students,” says Rhea.
“Someone who takes on a leadership role—in the dorm, a student organization, or working on a cause in the community around Buffalo—while maintaining great grades,” says Bill.
That wholehearted embrace of both education and engagement in college life describes their own UB experiences. Both were top students. Bill was an elected member of the Student Senate for three years and served as treasurer for half that time. Rhea served four years on the board of the Student Union and, as president her senior year, helped to plan the UB north campus. She also spent a year in the Senate and was a resident advisor.
They’d been introduced during Rhea’s freshman year, corresponded over the summer, Rhea in Queens and Bill in Rochester, then saw a lot of each other on campus the next year. The Student Senate office was next door to the Student Union board office.
We're giving back to UB for what we received," Rhea says. "And a lot of what we got was from the activities we were involved in."
They married the summer Rhea graduated. They both then earned graduate degrees from the University of Illinois—Bill in labor relations, Rhea in education—then Bill completed a JD at Cornell Law School.
Bill went to work for the U.S. Department of Labor, where he stayed for 30 years, first in New York City, then Washington, D.C., and finally in Atlanta where they still live, litigating cases for the department nationwide, both at the trial and appellate level. After retiring from the government, he practiced immigration law with his brother until 2019.
Rhea worked part-time in an elementary school near Atlanta while she raised their two children and then went to work for a software startup and, through corporate takeovers, eventually became a highly respected software release manager for IBM, working with development teams around the world from her home office until 2012—a remote worker years ahead of her time.
Looking back at their careers, Bill and Rhea credit their overall UB experiences as the foundation for their successes.
They also know they would have been shut out of those UB experiences without the financial assistance of an extended Regents scholarship for Bill and UB having just become a SUNY campus with public tuition that made it affordable for Rhea.
So the most perfect candidate for Bill and Rhea’s funding is the high-achieving student who has already engaged with the world at UB, is making a difference in it—which they hope would be promoting fairness, justice and diversity—and who could benefit from a generous hand on that path.
Bill and Rhea want nothing more than for that student to succeed.
Published March 15, 2022