PULLMAN, Wash. – When alumnus Robert Worth Berry (B.A. ’50, political science) turned 85 this year, a birthday party thrown by friends, family, and colleagues wasn’t the only surprise planned.
Doug Epperson, dean of the WSU College of Liberal Arts, joined the March 19 celebration to present Berry with the college’s 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award, and Berry’s WSU classmate and longtime friend Bill Fitch (B.A. ’50, English) presented him with WSU’s Alumni Achievement Award.
A distinguished career
Berry, a retired brigadier general, has a portfolio of accomplishments from his service in the U.S. Army and as a civilian that is impressive by any standard.
From drafting, during the Eisenhower administration, the only legislation to reorganize the entire Department of Defense to serving as a professor and head of the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the Harvard Law School graduate’s career as an attorney has been long, distinguished, and diverse.
Today Berry is still active as a corporate attorney for G.A. Wright Inc. in Denver, where he was named one of the city’s top corporate lawyers in the November 2010 issue of Denver Magazine.
Gary Wright was a cadet when Berry taught at West Point. The former army captain and commander of an infantry company founded G.A. Wright in 1981 and later recruited Berry out of retirement to work as the advertising company’s legal counsel.
When many of his contemporaries are focusing their energies on golf and gardening, it’s not hard for Berry to pinpoint what keeps him practicing law.
“There are a lot of people involved, and I like people,” Berry said. “I like people very much!”
Lessons learned at Washington State
At Washington State College, Berry took full advantage of campus life. An excellent student, he worked as a reporter and editor for the Daily Evergreen, belonged to the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and the Crimson Circle (a group of student leaders), and was elected to Scabbard and Blade, the honorary society for ROTC members.
In those days, WSC recognized 10 seniors as the “Big Five Men” and “Big Five Women” (a tradition continued at WSU today with the “Big 10 Seniors”). In 1950, not only was Berry selected for this honor, he was named “Big Chief” of the Big Five Men.
“We were called to the stage and we were standing there,” said Berry, recalling that day. “They announced the Big Chief, and I had turned to congratulate the student body president, who I thought would be chosen. But he wasn’t, I was, and I never asked why; I was kind of embarrassed. I thought it was a very high honor.”
Berry was befriended by then WSC president Wilson Compton, and dean of students Bill Craig became his mentor and friend. Berry credits his work with top administrators at WSC as one reason for his success in the military.
“I had been used to dealing with the dean and with Dr. Compton and Vice President Hopkins and Mr. Sandberg [executive assistant to the president], and I was not intimidated by them and I was not intimidated by the senior officers in the [military] division,” Berry said. “I got over that at WSU.”
For the full article on Berry visit the College of Liberal Arts page Nexus.