T he CSULB community lost a tremendous gift with the passing of Dr. Bruce L. Berg on February 20, 2008.
Many in the campus community remember Dr. Berg as a longtime mentor in the Partners for Success Program—the professor with an eclectic array of colorful shirts, shoes and boots inspired by a unique Hawaiian, cowboy blend. While he is most often remembered for his gregarious personality, his tireless energy, his scholarly and teaching excellence and his uncanny ability to live every day to the fullest, he was, at his core, an incredible mentor.
Few people know the degree to which Dr. Berg lived every day as a mentor. He was a faculty mentor to countless students, assisting them with personal crises, scheduling conflicts, graduate school/job preparation and general life issues. He was always accessible, with an “open door” policy on campus and seemingly endless email availability. He was also a mentor to colleagues in his department, helping junior faculty navigate politics, editing manuscripts, facilitating research and providing daily encouragement and counsel. Although we mourn his loss, those who knew him best remain touched by his impact in our lives in a way we cannot articulate; Dr. Berg would say we have been given “the gift.”
In 1980, Dr. Berg published an article in which he describes mentoring and the process of giving “the gift” to others. He wrote, “This gift includes not only information, but an entirely new way of viewing the world and living one’s life. It is an appreciation that borders on the spiritual. In short, the gift is wisdom.”
Dr. Berg explained his view of the mentoring process, in which this “gift” is passed from mentor to student. He often stated that the process requires that the student must be ready to receive the gift “strongly enough to claim it as his or her own.” Subsequently, “the student strives to live up to the expectation set by the teacher and seeks to enhance the gift and increase its potential value.” In the final stage, “the student, who is now a teacher, takes the enhanced version of the gift and seeks to pass it on to a new recipient.” He wrote, “If the gift is not passed on, it ceases to exist.”
Dr. Berg gave “the gift” to many students, staff, and faculty at CSULB. He gave it to his mentees in Partners for Success, students in his classrooms, colleagues in his department and associates in the community. He gave it to me. He would be proud to know that we can identify this gift, strive to claim it as our own, desire to grow it and seek to pass it on to others whose lives we can touch in meaningful ways. As we pass along this gift, we should remember that Dr. Berg’s legacy will live on through “the gift” as we share it with others.
Dr. Berg, the quintessential mentor, was named Partners for Success mentor of the year for 2008-09. While his passing leaves a tremendous void, we can be comforted by him being honored in this way. His gift will live on in generations of students and scholars to come.
"This gift includes not only information, but an entirely new way of viewing the world and living one’s life. It is an appreciation that borders on the spiritual. In short, the gift is wisdom.”
—Dr. Bruce Berg