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Gilchrist Berg gives $1.3 million to support the ‘mystery and magic of teaching’

Gilchrist Berg HeadshotThe University of North Florida College of Education and Human Services is pleased to announce a gift of $1.3 million from Gilchrist Berg, local philanthropist and president/founder of Water Street Capital. The gift will support current and future teachers in the region and provide highly trained and high-quality educators to address the critical teacher shortage.

Berg’s gift funds 20 scholarships annually for the next two years to help launch the Osprey Teacher Residency and Accelerated Program for aspiring educators attending UNF. Education majors from Florida can apply for the scholarships and choose a variety of pathways under the program.

“Gilchrist Berg is an inspiration to all of us in education,” said UNF President Moez Limayem. “He feels so deeply about the teaching profession and the impact teachers have on their students. He supports education at every level, from providing students assistance to obtain an education degree to funding continued education to rewarding great longtime teachers. Gilchrist is elevating the profession and reminding us all about the critical role teachers have played in our lives and in our communities.”

At UNF, Berg has contributed generously over the past 25 years to support teachers. In addition to the new gift to fund scholarships, Berg pledged over $1 million in additional funding to continue support for his Gladys Prior Awards for Career Teaching Excellence (named for his former first-grade teacher) that are administered by UNF and for the Gladys Roddenberry Graduate Fellowships (named for his sixth-grade teacher). Berg believes that supporting teachers is one of the most meaningful and productive investments that can be made, and he encourages others to join him in supporting education and the new Osprey program.

“When people are considering charitable gifts or areas in society to which they might contribute, I can’t think of anything that improves lives, civil discourse, curiosity, and an appreciation and joy for those around you, than education,” Berg said. He stresses that education not only improves one life, but can improve the lives of generations going forward. He also noted that many teachers are the children of teachers. “Any donor who supports teachers is a modern day, Johnny Appleseed,” Berg said. “They not only plant a tree which bears nourishing fruit for society, but that gift is fruitful well into the future.”

This year marks the 25th year of Berg awarding the Gladys Prior Awards to long-time outstanding teachers. Throughout that time, Berg recounts countless individuals sharing with him their stories about a teacher who impacted their lives, and most admit they have never thanked or told the teacher. Berg likens the teacher/student relationship to that of a doctor and patient in a double-blind study where one patient gets a medication and the other gets a placebo. Neither the doctor nor the patient knows who gets what. Berg said in education, a teacher never knows who is going to get the most out of their efforts. Later in life, the student is profoundly aware, but the teacher may never know. Berg calls it the “mystery and magic” of great teaching.