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Lehigh receives Berman papers

The personal papers of Philip and Muriel Berman, well-known local philanthropists and patrons of the arts for more than 50 years, have been donated to Lehigh University by the late couple’s daughter, Nancy Berman.

The papers include correspondence with major artists of the last century, such as sculptor Henry Moore, as well as correspondence related to the Bermans’ business interests, with included Hess’s department store.

The papers will become a permanent part of Lehigh's Special Collections and will be available for access through the university’s Library and Technology Services.

Nancy Berman, who serves as the director of the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, is a member of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees, and is museum director emeritus of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. She remains active on the boards of several Los Angeles-based organizations devoted to arts and culture.

The collected papers of her parents include extensive photographic materials, and represent the Bermans’ business, civic, and cultural activities locally, nationally and internationally. In addition to Hess’s Department Store, which the Bermans purchased from Max Hess in 1968, the couple’s business interests included the Allen Electric Company, the Leader Nursing Homes Corporation, and 18 trucking companies.

The collection also includes a large photographic archive of major outdoor sculptures documented by the Bermans during their extensive travels throughout the world. The late Philip Berman’s travel journals, enjoyed by many friends, are also among the papers.

The gift from the Berman Foundation will “significantly enhance Lehigh’s ability to serve the varied research interests of students and scholars worldwide,” says Gregory Farrington, university president. “We are very grateful for the generosity of the Berman family, and Nancy in particular, who made it all happen.”

Also included in the collection are papers related to the Bermans’civic and philanthropic activities, which include the Muriel and Philip Berman National Medical Library in Hadassah Hospital at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the Philip and Muriel Berman Art Museum at Ursinus College, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Philip Berman was named chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1989. Both Philip and Muriel Berman were active in promoting public television at many levels and were involved in numerous other causes.

At Lehigh, the Bermans established the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies and an annual lecture series in economics. The many outdoor sculptures donated by the Bermans are prominently displayed throughout the campus, including in the Muriel and Philip Berman Sculpture Garden adjacent to the Fairchild Martindale Library. Lehigh awarded honorary doctorate of humane letters degrees to Philip (1969), Muriel (1991) and Nancy (1997) Berman.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006

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