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Community Remembers Generosity of Louis Berkman

March 28, 2013
By TYLER REYNARD - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

STEUBENVILLE - The city of Steubenville earlier this year mourned the loss of an industrialist and philanthropist whose generosity was invaluable to the city's institutions of education and community projects.

Louis Berkman died in late January at the age of 104. In 1931, he incorporated The Louis Berkman Company in Steubenville.

Berkman was instrumental in the fundraising for St. John Medical Center, now known as Trinity Medical Center West, and St. John Arena, since transformed into the YMCA Wellness Center. He also donated the land on Lovers Lane where Temple Beth Israel would be constructed.

Article Photos

The Louis and Sandra Berkman Amphitheater at Historic Fort Steuben, dedicated in 2006, hosts concerts weekly in the summer months, as well as other events.

Photo by Tyler Reynard

A longtime member of the Steubenville Country Club, Berkman was crucial to its reconstruction after the building was destroyed by fire in the early 1960s.

Berkman and his first wife, Sandra, had been married 48 years when she died in 1983. The Louis and Sandra Berkman Foundation made great investments in Steubenville's education and community facilities.

The foundation contributed the majority of the cost to renovate of Steubenville Catholic Central High School's Lanman Hall, which was dedicated earlier this year and subsequently renamed Berkman Theater at Lanman Hall.

Catholic Central Principal Rich Wilinski said if it were not for the generosity of Berkman and his foundation, the renovation would have taken years to complete. The school is extremely appreciative and owes a great deal of gratitude for the contributions, Wilinski added.

The Louis and Sandra Berkman Amphitheater at Historic Fort Steuben was dedicated in 2006. Music lovers from throughout the tri-state area travel to downtown Steubenville in the summer months to attend weekly concerts at the amphitheater.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville awarded Berkman its Caritas Medal. He also received the President's Award from Franciscan University of Steubenville, as well as an honorary doctorate degree from the school.

The foundation also made great contributions to Franciscan, which helped fund the construction of the J.C. Williams Center, where the Louis Berkman Fireside Lounge bears his name, the John Paul II Library, Finnegan Fieldhouse, and Saints Cosmas and Damian Science Hall. In 1998, the foundation established the Louis Berkman Scholarship fund at Franciscan.

The Rev. Richard Davis, TOR, vice president of community relations, has served at Franciscan University of Steubenville since 1992 and knew Berkman well.

"Through the Louis and Sandra Berkman Foundation, he gave generously to Franciscan University," Davis said of Berkman. "I had the privilege of giving him reports on how the scholarship money he provided was being used. He admired people who worked hard and he wanted to know how the students were using the scholarships to better themselves. He wanted to see that the money was being used wisely and prudently."

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