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A Legacy of Giving: The H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation

Frances C. Berger Foundation

H. N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation patrons pose for a picture next to the foundation's plaque displayed on the Donor Honor Wall. Pictured (left to right): Sherrie Auen, Catharine Reed, Gwen Vance, Doug Vance, Darrell Burrage, Chris McGuire and Carol McGuire

Venture outside the Salk Institute's east building, look to the east end of the brick courtyard, and you'll find three walls inscribed with the names of especially generous and steadfast donors. Listed among them is the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, which has landed a place of honor for contributing more than $10 million over the last twenty years.

What the inscription doesn't reveal, however, is the story behind the foundation's extraordinary support, for it would be hard to find a donor with farther-reaching impact on the Institute. Through a longstanding relationship that began in 1990 at the Salk's Annual Tax Seminar for Private Foundations, the Berger Foundation has funded everything from state-of-the-art imaging, infectious disease research and laboratory construction to the work of multiple faculty members and even a meeting center. Most notably, early support from the foundation enabled Inder Verma to establish the Laboratory of Genetics and make huge strides in gene therapy; its contributions for lab renovations were also crucial in attracting Fred Gage, one of the world's top neuroscientists, to the Institute.

This expansive approach to grantmaking characterizes the foundation, which typically gives to an array of causes, benefiting everything from educational, healthcare and religious organizations to youth, arts, social service and community programs.

The Berger Foundation is the legacy of its namesakes, H.N. and Frances C. Berger, a self-made couple who built a successful Southern California real estate and banking empire. They created the private family foundation in 1961, with a mission to support "established organizations, particularly ones promoting healthcare, social services and education, in a valiant effort to help people help themselves." Since 1988, when H.N. "Nor" Berger passed away, the foundation has contributed more than $350 million to a wide range of charitable organizations.

Because the Berger Foundation preselects its grant recipients, it is a testament to the caliber of Salk science that it identified the Institute as a potential grantee and has provided support in so many ways for more than two decades.

"Our commitment is to help others attain their goals and demonstrate that success can be achieved by mutual cooperation, clear objectives and steadfast determination," says president and chief executive officer Ronald Auen. "The H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and the Salk Institute have a valued and productive relationship that exemplifies this philosophy and has ultimately advanced many key areas of science and discovery."

"It is hard to imagine any other foundation whose support of the Salk Institute has had such a wide-reaching impact on the scientific endeavors of our world-class faculty," adds William R. Brody, Salk Institute president. "Sustained support from the Berger Foundation continues to make a significant difference in both the quality of science and the Institute's ability to undertake research in new and cutting-edge areas of biomedical science."