Largest Gift in NMU History Announced
NMU alumnus John Berry and his wife, Shirley, have committed $5 million to the NMU Foundation. Their gift is the largest in Northern’s history and intended to enhance the university’s ability to recruit high-achieving students.
The couple has pledged $1 million in cash to endow a scholarship and provide immediate support for students and $4 million in estate gifts that will establish a legacy of financial aid for the future.
The Berry Scholarship will be awarded to incoming freshmen who have demonstrated academic ability 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 the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering or math.
“We wanted to establish a scholarship program to help Northern raise the overall quality of education by attracting top-quality students,” Berry said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t quality students on campus now, but this will help the university be more competitive in recruiting others. It’s like a sports team. If you have a few superstars, it elevates everyone else’s game. That’s what I had in mind when we started this scholarship.
“As you get older, you tend to want to support those things that had the most meaning in your life. One of those places, for me, was Northern. This is a way to give back on an ongoing basis and provide the opportunity for students to go here. I know from my own experience that when you graduate from here, you have the tools you need to go out and be successful. I’ve enjoyed success and made some money along the way and I’m fortunate to be in a position to share that.”
Berry also contributed the second-largest gift in NMU history with $2 million to support construction and naming of the Berry Events Center. NMU President Les Wong said the new commitment announced today further demonstrates the family’s philanthropic spirit and the strength of John’s connection to his alma mater.
“John has made it abundantly clear through his words and actions that Northern had a significant impact on in his life,” Wong said. “Through this gift, he and Shirley will enable Northern to attract students who would meet the admissions requirements for the most elite schools in the country, but want the well-rounded, community-centered college experience that Northern is known for. This gift will help us recruit the best and brightest from across the nation and around the world. This gift also supports NMU’s strategic vision by providing critical financial resources to support innovation, student success and continued academic excellence.”
Two high school seniors who will enroll at NMU this fall have been selected for the first awards. Kasey Hall of White Pigeon, Mich., and Cole Swiston of Washburn, Wis., each will receive $20,000 over four years.
“Somebody has seen the potential in me to do great things and is investing in my education. I have no idea how I could ever be more grateful,” said Hall, who traveled to Marquette for the announcement and to thank the Berrys in person. “One less burden has been taken off my mother for the financial stresses of college and I cannot be more excited to show Northern Michigan University my drive, determination and dedication. I am thrilled to be going to NMU and am extremely thankful for this prestigious award.”
Berry is a retired businessman who graduated in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance. He and Shirley now split their time between their native Dayton, Ohio, and Naples, Fla. The couple’s gift was announced Thursday night at a reception at The Waterfront in Marquette.