A new endowed scholarship was established this month at Minnesota State University Moorhead by the grandchildren of Olga and Palmer Berg, a Lake Park couple who were well known for their generosity — and for their belief in the importance of higher education.

"Though neither one of them ever went to college, they made sure their daughter Bernice did," said Cindy Irving, one of the Bergs' grandchildren, whose father, Donald Berg, is a long-time resident of Detroit Lakes.

The Bergs' daughter, Bernice, graduated from Moorhead State Teachers College in 1940.

"It was right in the middle of the Great Depression," said Donald Berg, Bernice's brother. "Nobody had any money then. It was a real struggle for someone to go to college."

He added that their parents were both orphaned at an early age, and spent most of their childhood at the Lake Park Children's Home.

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"My (paternal) grandmother came from Sweden when she was 17," he said. "She died when she was 21."

As such, they had to earn their own way in the world — making the feat of putting even one of their children through college all the more impressive.

Since Bernice Berg earned her teaching certificate in 1940, four generations of the Berg family have followed suit, including 11 of 18 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild, and four sons- and daughters-in-law.

Irving added that she was one of them, having graduated from MSUM in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

To honor Olga and Palmer's legacy, their family has established the Berg Family First-Generation Endowed Scholarship. A special ceremony was held Oct. 5 at MSUM's Comstock Memorial Union to present the first recipient of that scholarship, MSUM junior Casey Pittman, with her award.

"It will be an annual scholarship," said Irving, noting that the endowment has been set up to continue "in perpetuity."

Though the first scholarship was for $1,500, "that amount may change," she added.

MSUM students who apply for this merit-based scholarship must be:

  • enrolled as a full-time student at Minnesota State University Moorhead;
  • the first member of his/her immediate family (parents or siblings) to receive a college degree;

  • an upper class student (sophomore or above);

  • studying with a declared major.