Stephen Berkley ’66: Keeping a promise to his younger self

Spring 2018
Steven berkley, then and now

When Stephen Berkley ’66 entered Colgate, times were tough. His father became unemployed, and the young Berkley had to find a way to pay for his education on the hill.

“I borrowed some money; I did not receive any financial aid, but I worked summers, I worked in my fraternity, and that helped me get through my four years at Colgate,” explains Berkley, who was an economics major and member of Tau Kappa Epsilon. Now, half a century later, he’s helping to make sure students in the same financial boat can afford a Colgate education. “I made a commitment to myself that, if I were in a position to help others in similar situations, [I would].”

Now that he’s retired from his career, which included running a series of start-ups, Berkley has been able to dedicate more time to philanthropy and make good on his promise to himself. “It seemed like that was the next chapter in my life,” he says.

In today’s economic climate, Berkley notes, it’s even more difficult for students to pay their own tuition. “Students are not really in a position to be able to work their way through school anymore,” he says. With that in mind, he established the Stephen M. Berkley Family Endowed Scholarship in 1991, benefiting financially needy students from New York City.

Having grown up in New Jersey, Berkley spent a lot of time in New York City. “I was well aware from personal and firsthand experiences that there were a lot of minority students in New York who wouldn’t have the financial resources to attend college,” says Berkley, who is also a Colgate Presidents’ Club member. The scholarship has so far assisted more than a dozen students with their Colgate tuitions.

Now living in San Francisco, Berkley also supports students at other schools — including Stanford University, where he contributes funds for student-athletes — through his personal foundation, the Rosewood Foundation. He also helps a range of local groups, such as Job Train, an organization in Menlo Park, Calif., providing skills for unemployed residents; Community Services Association, a group in Mountain View, Calif., offering meals and other services for low-income families; and San Francisco Public Radio.

Though he didn’t previously have the bandwidth for philanthropy because of his career, Berkley has had the opportunity to explore that passion in his retirement. And, now that he has the time, he’s giving charitable work his all. “My habit is, when I start something, I tend to commit 150 percent.”

— Rebecca Docter