Bergh Family Fellows program and mentoring award will support students and faculty through $5.25 million gift
(October 27, 2022) Initiating an opportunity for students unlike any other in the College’s history, Chip ’79 H’22 and Juliet Bergh have donated $5.25 million to Lafayette to support the internships, global engagement, and research experiences of 1,000 students across the next five years.
The Bergh Family Fellows (BFF) will support the type of life-changing learning experiences for which Lafayette is known. In honor of the College’s Bicentennial in 2026, the BFF program will fund 200 students beginning this academic year. Building on the Berghs’ historic generosity and vision, the College will also seek the support of other donors willing to endow 200 annual experiences totaling $20 million to make this program permanent.
“As we look toward our Bicentennial, I can think of no better way to launch the next chapter for Lafayette than to open doors like this for 200 of our students, every year. In its immediacy and breadth of impact for every student, regardless of financial background, the program is unlike any other ever established at Lafayette,” President Nicole Hurd says. “Chip and Juliet have made a commitment to access and opportunity that will connect learning, discovery, and experience for our students in a profound way. As our alumni, friends, and other supporters rally behind this bold idea, they will make this program a permanent part of who we are and what our students gain from a Lafayette education.”
Kicking off the BFF with their gift, the Berghs embraced Hurd’s confidence that other Lafayette supporters would step forward between now and the College’s bicentennial to provide endowed opportunities that carry the program forward in perpetuity.
“We think this is a game-changer for Lafayette,” says Chip, who is the president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. and graduated from Lafayette with an A.B. degree in international affairs. “We are excited about how this initiative will help students who otherwise might not be able to afford these experiences that can be so powerful. We believe deeply in Lafayette, in the excellence of the faculty, in the promise and ambitions of the students, and we are proud to get this program underway with this gift and set in motion something that will transform the lives of countless students in the years and decades to come.”
Every year, hundreds of students engage in the numerous research, internship, and overseas-study opportunities that the College offers. Students often describe them as the most meaningful and rewarding learning experiences of their undergraduate years. But as at most other colleges and universities, at Lafayette student participation in many of these experiences is limited by their family income. The BFF program addresses that critical need by providing the resources for $5,000 fellowships for 200 students every year to pursue those opportunities. The Bergh gift also will support the administration of the program.
Hurd was inspired to discuss a fellowship program like this with the Berghs following recent conversations with College faculty. They shared with her their longstanding hope that the valuable array of out-of-class learning experiences that Lafayette offers, and to which they devote so much time and focus, could be available to all students, regardless of means. The Berghs were immediately inspired by the idea, and now have turned it into a reality. As the College puts the program in place, it will also turn its attention to discussing with other potential contributors how they can endow named opportunities that extend the program for Lafayette students forever.
The Berghs made another gift in addition to the historic BFF program contribution.
Their second gift recognizes one of Chip’s outstanding professors, his faculty advisor and a lifelong mentor and friend, Ilan Peleg, Charles A. Dana Professor of Government and Law. The Ilan Peleg Excellence in Mentoring Award will provide a generous award each year to a faculty member who has done exceptional work mentoring and supporting students inside and outside the classroom.
Chip called this gift “a special way of thanking Prof. Peleg for all that his guidance has meant to me, and at the same time recognizing and extending that thanks to the faculty for making Lafayette such an extraordinary place to be a college student.”
To be awarded based on the recommendations of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to a dedicated faculty and alumni committee, the Peleg Award will first be granted at the end of the current academic year and will be awarded annually thereafter.