Eliot Society members gather to celebrate university’s accomplishments

Berg honored with Search Award; author Bryson spoke

Eliot Society dinner
At the annual Eliot Society dinner April 19, John Berg (seated), who served as vice chancellor for admissions for over 20 years, received the Search Award. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

The 51st annual William Greenleaf Eliot Society dinner honored Washington University in St. Louis’ group of dedicated supporters for their contributions toward advancing its institutional mission. The event took place April 19 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Eliot Society members provide the largest source of unrestricted gifts to the university and are leaders in supporting the annual fund. Members help the university address a broad range of critical needs, including scholarships, student assistance programs, educational resources, faculty development and recruitment, and facility improvements. At last count there were 10,310 members.

Eliot Society President Merry Mosbacher, who earned a master’s in business administration in 1982 from the Olin Business School, welcomed more than 700 guests and acknowledged members’ integral role in the university’s current campaign.

“Your philanthropy helps spur the superb accomplishments that take place every day,” Mosbacher said. “Through your Eliot Society membership, you have a direct impact on every area of the university and every priority of Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University.”

The Eliot Society contributed more than $22 million in unrestricted gifts last year, a new record, Mosbacher said.

During the event, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton presented the Search Award to John Berg, who led the Office of Undergraduate Admissions from 1994 until his retirement in 2016.

The Search Award, the Eliot Society’s highest honor, is bestowed upon members of the university community who have made exceptional contributions to furthering its mission.

Awardees receive a silver replica of “The Search,” a sculpture designed by the late Heikki Seppä that symbolizes the endless quest for truth and knowledge. Seppä was a professor emeritus in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Berg joined Washington University in 1987 as assistant to Chancellor William H. Danforth, now chancellor emeritus and life trustee. He then served as associate vice chancellor for finance. In 1994, Berg became director of admissions; he retired as vice chancellor and dean of admissions.

Under his leadership, Berg oversaw a dramatic increase in admissions applications that continues today. The university receives more than 30,000 applications annually, with a 17 percent acceptance rate.

Berg earned his undergraduate degree from Tufts University and his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Wrighton also praised society members’ significant contributions.

“At Washington University, we share a vision for a brighter world. We seek and apply new knowledge, innovate and solve problems and collaborate to improve the quality of life for all. Year after year, members of the Eliot Society invest in our educational mission and in our talented students — the next generation of society’s leaders. The importance of your support cannot be overstated.”

Best-selling author Bill Bryson was the keynote speaker. His books range in subject from language to travel and from history to science.

Bryson is perhaps best-known for his chronicle of hiking the Appalachian Trail, “A Walk in the Woods,” and the award-winning “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” widely acclaimed for making science accessible to the public.

Bryson rose to prominence in the United Kingdom with “Notes From a Small Island,” his immensely popular travelogue on Great Britain. His latest publication is “The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island.”

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