Gift Targets Building Maintenance
College campuses nationwide are filled with buildings named for generous donors whose gifts made their construction possible.
But years later when the roof leaks or the paint peels, colleges traditionally have had to draw on operating budgets to make repairs.
That doesn’t make sense to Arcadia, Calif. venture capitalist Dave Berkus, who recently made a $1.25 million gift to Occidental College to create a new endowment for building maintenance. Berkus, a 1962 Occidental graduate and a veteran member of the college’s board of trustees, readily admits that there is nothing glamorous or high profile about rusty pipes or cracked concrete.
And that’s precisely the point. “This is the neglected stepchild of college fundraising,” Berkus says. “I can’t think of another area in higher education where the need is so great, and the total dollars raised is so small. This is the kind of nuts-and-bolts issue where a few key gifts could have a tremendous impact on an institution.”
The Berkus gift is the first at Occidental to set up an endowment specifically for the maintenance of buildings across the entire 120-acre campus, located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The need is particularly acute on older campuses like Occidental’s, which boasts a remarkable collection of historic buildings designed by distinguished architect Myron Hunt, Berkus says. The oldest of those buildings will mark their centennial soon – structures that continue to play a central role in the academic and social life of the college.
“It’s my hope that that my gift will help lead others to recognize the extent of the need and add to the maintenance endowment, something that will benefit the entire campus community,” Berkus says.
Although Berkus’ gift, a combination of cash and securities, will fund building maintenance needs, recognition of his gift will be made visible on one of college’s newer buildings, a student residence currently identified only by its address but soon to be known as Berkus House.
The two-story building at the corner of Alumni Avenue and Campus Road was built in 1958 as the new Kappa Sigma fraternity house. Berkus was the first pledge to move into the house, which served as his home for his four years at Occidental.
After graduating with a degree in business administration, Berkus went on to a distinguished career as a high-tech entrepreneur, founding Computerized Lodging Systems – listed for two consecutive years on Inc. magazine’s list of America’s fastest-growing companies. An author, pilot, and community volunteer, he created his first venture capital firm, Berkus Technology Ventures LLC, in 1993.