John and Shirley Berry:
Largest Gift Establishes Scholarship
In April of this year, NMU President Les Wong announced the largest gift in the university’s history. Retired businessman and NMU alumnus John Berry ’71 BS, and his wife, Shirley, committed $5 million to the NMU Foundation to establish the Berry Scholarship.
Accepting the gift on behalf of the NMU Foundation, NMU Executive Director of Advancement, Martha Haynes, said, “It is impossible to overstate the generosity and significance of this gift and the critical role it will play in enhancing the university’s ability to recruit and create opportunities for exceptional students.”
The Berrys pledged $1 million in cash to endow a scholarship and provide immediate support for students and $4 million in planned gifts that will establish a legacy of financial aid for the future. In addition, the Berrys will provide $20,000 a year over the next five years to be awarded immediately, thereby leaving the endowment time to grow earnings.
According to Director Haynes, “This combination of giving provides the best of all worlds. Offering immediate rewards, the financial security of an endowment and the promise of substantial gifts down the line establishes an unbroken chain of support for NMU students.”
Shirley and John have been working closely with President Wong, Director Haynes, and the NMU Foundation staff over the past several years to structure the gift in a manner that best addresses the needs of NMU students, the mission of the university, and the couple’s passion for excellence and achievement.
Just as important, the gift reflects John’s deep appreciation for the education and experience that he received at NMU. At the gift announcement, John said, “Northern gave me the tools I needed to be successful—beyond accounting and finance skills. The whole experience in and out of the classroom shaped me. I left with more maturity, decisiveness, perseverance, and ability to deal with people.”
The Berry Scholarship
The scholarship will be awarded to incoming freshmen who have demonstrated academic excellence and achievement. Preference will be given to students who enroll in the NMU Honors Program and plan to pursue a major in the College of Business, followed by those who major in STEM areas of science, technology, engineering, or math.
Who is John Berry?
After graduation, John worked for the family business. His grandfather had pioneered Yellow Pages advertising in telephone directories and his father later sold the company to BellSouth Corp. As president of the Berry Company and as an officer of BellSouth, John oversaw the Yellow Pages in its U.S. and worldwide operations. He retired from the Berry Company in 1995. Since then, John has invested in and developed a number of highly successful entrepreneurial efforts. Currently, John and Shirley are carrying on the Berry family’s tradition of philanthropy. They support a wide variety of charitable endeavors, and John is chairman of the Berry Foundation.
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