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Finances and faith spurred Judith Berger to create a unique fund through the UW-Fond du Lac Foundation that helps struggling students afford books. While providing monetary aid, the Berger Book Bag Fund also honors Judith’s recently deceased husband, Joseph S. Berger, Jr., a long-time campus supporter.

“I want to honor Joe’s memory,” Judith said of choosing to endow an ongoing fund at a place of importance to her husband. Both her spouse, Joseph S. Berger, Jr., and his father, clothier Joseph S. Berger, Sr., put great personal effort into bringing a college campus to Fond du Lac. “In the Jewish faith, we remember those who have passed away with honor; they are not truly dead as long as people remember them.”

Joe Berger, Jr., died in May 2010 after an unusually long, five-year battle with mesothelioma. His memory will live on at the UW-Fond du Lac campus though the fund Judith established.

The Bergers knew from close family friends that college costs beyond tuition often strain the budgets of students pursuing higher education.

“Scholarships, grants and loans are available to pay for tuition, but most don’t cover books, drafting supplies, art supplies or program fees,” Judith Berger said. “These are as essential as tuition.”

All UW-Fond du Lac students facing financial hardship are eligible to apply for the need-based grant of up to $300 per semester, paid directly to the UW-Fond du Lac bookstore.

Judith Berger’s initial gift of $20,000 endowed the Berger Book Bag Fund in perpetuity. Still, she plans to continue contributing to the fund to keep the account robust, and invites others who knew the Berger father-and-son team to also make memorial donations. At the recent Association of Commerce annual meeting, over $1,000 was contributed to the fund by members wishing to honor the memory of the Bergers.

“This fund will help deserving students who might otherwise need to choose between buying groceries for their family or buying the books they need to succeed in their college classes,” said UW-Fond du Lac Dean and CEO John Short. “Mrs. Berger’s generosity and concern will make a real difference in students’ lives and impact their future.”

Donations in memory of Joseph S. Berger, Jr., may be mailed to the Berger Book Bag Fund, UW-Fond du Lac Foundation, 400 University Dr., Fond du Lac, WI 54935 or by calling the Foundation office at (920) 929-1335.

UW-Fond du Lac students can apply for funding by completing an application form and returning it to the Student Affairs Office.


Laurie Krasin