In anticipation of her 100th birthday on Aug. 8, Margaret Berry, BA ’37, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna, penned an essay titled “Old Age is a Gift” in the July issue of the Alcalde. But perhaps the greatest gift is the one the campus legend gave others throughout her decades of dedication to UT. To mark the occasion, the Alumni Center was filled with nearly 300 admirers, from former students to fellow coworkers to friends, all who say their lives have been touched by Berry.
Stories of Berry’s influence filled the room: how she inspired students to become leaders, how she taught a class with a perfect attendance record, and how she even played a matchmaker to a 60-year marriage. She is often described as both a “legend and a treasure,” and it’s safe to say that the hundreds of sentimental attendees at the celebration agreed.
Berry was brought to tears by the kind words, but was utterly speechless when she was surprised by the announcement of two new scholarship funds: a $25,000 endowed student activities fund named after Berry and a $100,000 Endowed Presidential Scholarship in honor of her parents, Lillian and Winfred Berry. Donations to the presidential scholarship, which will be given annually to two eligible undergraduates, quietly poured in from Longhorns around the globe.
“This scholarship is a testament to the love and admiration the people in this room feel for you,” said UT President Greg Fenves. “Thank you, Margaret Berry.”
Loyce Katz Sparkman, BA ’64, BJ ’64, is lucky to call Berry one of her mentors and dearest friends. “She’s been like a mother to me as well as many other students,” Sparkman said. Berry encouraged her to get an advanced degree at Columbia University, and is responsible for her later representing UT at the first convention for women in engineering and science at MIT.
“Her presence is just amazing. [This event is a] fun, fabulous tribute to an outstanding, remarkable lady,” Sparkman said.
Attendees sang “Happy Birthday” as Berry blew out the candle on her cake. As she addressed the crowd, she was overcome with gratitude. “This is too much,” she said. “What can you say other than, ‘Thank you.’”
Young members of the Orange Jackets were on hand to unveil the new scholarship. The honorary service organization has its own fund dedicated to Berry, a former member. Students feel her influence to this day, which is a testament to her generations-long impact.
“We are so incredibly proud to call her one our alumni of Orange Jackets. Knowing that she was a part of this organization makes it so much more valuable to be a part of,” said UT senior and Orange Jacket Vystnavi Karri. “Her humility and love has given us so much inspiration, and we try our best to carry on her legacy.”
The heartwarming event was a fitting tribute to UT’s unofficial historian, one who has been a staunch supporter of the university for decades. Sparkman could not say enough wonderful things about her talented friend. “Margaret Berry is a true Texas Longhorn, who bleeds burnt orange and white.”
Former colleague and student Rick Meyer said he worked with Berry in the president’s office in 1969, and that she was always the peacemaker and a calm voice during stressful times.
“That’s why I remember her, and of course she’s never changed,” Meyer said. “There will never be another one like her.”
Margaret Berry poses with members of the Orange Jackets at her birthday party on Saturday, Aug. 8, in the Alumni Center.
Photo by Jim Innes.
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