When H.N. and Frances C. Berger met in Santa Barbara, they were an ideal match of optimistic middle class achievers striving for a better tomorrow. “Fran” was a school teacher and “Nor” was an accountant for an oil company. Their complementary positive outlooks and exceptional ability to overcome obstacles produced a force of unflappable determination and assured success when joined together. They married in 1925.
Always seeking new challenges, but without the reserves to take big steps, the Bergers borrowed $200 from a jeweler friend to purchase their first piece of property and create a new beginning. They took the small loan and bought a residential lot in Santa Barbara where, working together, they built their first home.
From this simple beginning, their land and development empire grew. The Bergers duplicated their first purchase many times over and became savvy in the business and real estate worlds. Eventually they moved to San Marino, California, where they continued to purchase and develop property. In short order, they owned development and real estate throughout Southern California.
Having achieved success in real estate, the Bergers sought a new challenge in the banking industry, and founded Prudential Savings and Loan. Prudential eventually merged into Financial Federation, where Norwood Berger served as Chairman.
The self-made couple never lost sight of their humble beginnings and those less fortunate during their years of accomplishment. As their good fortune increased, Fran and Nor quietly began their lifelong charitable efforts. Their dreams went beyond their own personal financial gain, and they looked outside their comfortable lifestyle to attain deeper, more fulfilling goals. They believed in opportunity for everyone, no matter what their status in society, and there was a special place in their hearts for children, the leaders of tomorrow.
The Bergers understood that through their wealth, they could bring opportunity and knowledge to others and “help people help themselves” by providing the necessary resources to encourage and enable dreams to be followed and goals to be reached. With this philosophy as their core belief, they proceeded to establish the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation as a private family foundation in 1961.
Fran and Nor immediately set their sights on programs to benefit young people, including scholarships, college buildings, and hospitals. Through the years, their philanthropic legacy continued to expand and reach out to those in need throughout California and the United States.
Nor Berger passed away in 1988 and Fran Berger died three years later. The impact of their generous and compassionate philanthropy is impossible to measure. Their boundless optimism, strong sense of responsibility to community and dedicated support of youth, defined their true essence beyond financial achievements. Their mission, “to help people help themselves,” has become a modern day mantra throughout the world.
Today, the Foundation that carries their name, the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, continues to honor and carry out their legacy.