Since his first job as a shoeshine boy in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, Walter V. Berry has continually challenged and pushed the boundaries of the possible. From his work inventing the oxygen lance which revolutionized the steel-making process, to his development of a tin-free bronze which assisted American war efforts, to his adventurous oil and gas developments, Mr. Berry achieved substantial pecuniary and professional success.
Mr. Berry viewed his achievements not so much in terms of dollars, but in terms of the good work those dollars enable. He and his wife Idun Marie Berry worked hard to benefit the world through their care for children.
Mr. Berry described this commitment best when receiving an honorary degree from the University of South Florida in 1988:
"To me, reverence to children means building a nation of healthy children by endeavoring through medical research to reduce and/or eliminate diseases and disabilities that adversely affect their well-being; inspiring them; counseling them; loving them; leading them down the path of righteousness; and preparing them for world leadership in establishing peace on earth and good-will toward men."
In May of 1990, Walter V. and Idun Y. Berry pledged $495,000 to fund the first three Berry Fellowships at Stanford University. Long dedicated to children's health, the Berrys had themselves contributed to a number of pediatric charities. After an exhaustive country-wide search, the Berrys decided that Stanford was a place where:
"The pioneering work in molecular and genetic research, teamed with immediate clinical applications and the opportunity to have results of both taught to students, offered the potential for exciting discoveries to benefit children."
The Berrys' conviction was that the most valuable legacy they could leave to the world's children was one which not only treated current illnesses, but also sought to remedy and eradicate their causes.
The partnership between the Berrys and Stanford in championing children's health has been a productive one. Since 1990, the Berry Fellowships have funded 102 postdoctoral scholars. After the Berrys' deaths, the Berry Foundation has continued to support the program. The Berrys' generosity has supported projects such as the development of a near-infared spectroscope for non-invasive measurement of brain oxygenation in critically ill newborns, helping women with collagen vascular disease have healthy babies, and researching the mechanisms of Helicobacter Pylori bacterium that infects the human stomach and may affect as many as 80% of the developing world's children.
"Never become discouraged. Never stop trying. Nothing is impossible when there is vision, ideas, the will to be successful, and the persistence for overcoming disappointments."
— Walter Berry
The qualities which helped Walter and Idun Berry persevere and triumph in the business world--honesty, tenacity, compassion and innovation--are those which drive the Berry Fellowship program. To the larger Stanford community Mr. Berry is known as a generous and visionary donor. To the Fellows, he is famous for brightening their day with a letter, an inspirational book, or a tape of his oompah band's latest concert.
Mr. Berry once said that he wasn't interested in building new buildings, but cared about funding people because it was people "who would ultimately make the difference." His dedication and generosity of spirit support the Berry Fellows, who in turn build on the Berry legacy.