David Berg Center // About
The David Berg Center adds value to organizations through ethical leadership.
About David Berg
The David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership was established in 1999 when David Berg, an alumnus and good friend of the University of Pittsburgh, allowed funds in the David Berg Family Fund to be converted to a new fund to establish the center.
One of New York City’s most accomplished developers and generous philanthropists, real estate lawyer David Berg grew up in Manhattan, the younger son in a struggling Jewish family that arrived at Ellis Island in 1904.
In a career spanning nearly 70 years, Berg, together with many clients, developed shopping centers, apartment buildings, and hotels in many cities, including Regency Towers in New York City and Harbor Towers in Boston, Mass. He also was a major shareholder in several banks—among them the Gotham Bank, which he and some of his clients developed and merged into the Royal National Bank of New York in 1963. Berg sold his shares in 1972.
Berg credited his mother—who not only put him through college and law school, but helped get him his first clients—for much of his success. “My first bits of legal work,” he said, “were small cases from my mother’s inquiries of her customers in the hand laundry she ran on 44th Street. Some of her customers ran rooming houses, and I began to build up a practice in legal matters involving leases and ownerships of small rooming houses and hotels.”
By the late 1930s, Berg had built a good clientele and reputation in the hotel field. His work led him into the hotel business as an owner, and at one time he and his clients owned nearly 30 hotels. In 1942, he became an owner, at his clients’ request, of New York’s famed Chelsea Hotel—frequented in the 1960s by such art and entertainment figures as Andy Warhol and the Rolling Stones.
One of the greatest influences in his life, Berg said, was Dorthea Thomas, the head librarian of the children’s section of the New York City Public Library on 125th Street. “She helped me get books from the adult section after I had finished everything in the children’s section,” said Berg, who graduated from high school at age 15.
The University of Pittsburgh, where Berg spent his undergraduate years and his first year of law study, and Harvard Law School, where he earned his LLB degree in 1926, were high on Berg’s list of important causes. “I never forget the individuals and institutions that have helped along the way,” he said. “I have experienced a great deal of joy in setting up scholarships at the schools that prepared me for such a gratifying career.”
Berg also contributed to Yeshiva University, where he was a trustee; Cardozo Law School, where he was director; and Adelphi College.
Berg’s other charitable contributions include an 18th-century English dining room—complete with furniture, silver, ceramics, and other antiques—which he had installed for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Dedicated to Berg’s mother on his 70th birthday in 1974, the room remains among the museum’s most popular attractions.
We explore the interface between ethics and leadership, emphasizing the interdependence between these two important concepts. It supports the idea that both leadership and ethics are necessary for both individual and organizational effectiveness.
To accomplish this, the center focuses on two key activity groups:
The center will support education and academic programs that help individuals understand and integrate ethical principles into their leadership performance. The center aims to achieve this by creating and executing innovative programs in leadership development and ethics across all career stages.
The center will engage in a range of activities that are built on strong collaborations with organizations locally and globally. This includes a broad portfolio of community and social engagement projects, seminars, case competitions and public dissemination of centered-sponsored scholarships.