Known internationally for their extensive collections and donations of art in every medium, the Bermans were outstanding philanthropists, advocates of education, public broadcasting, public service and cultural exchange. Their names are associated with museums, libraries, sculpture gardens (including one at Lehigh), hospitals, distinguished scholars, and colleges and universities in the United States and abroad.
A lifelong resident of the Lehigh Valley, Phil Berman was the former owner and CEO of Hess’s, Inc. He enjoyed careers including truck leasing, electrical supplies and industrial park and nursing home development. He was chairman of the board of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and vice chairman of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Muriel was an early pioneer in the field of optometry, holding a doctor’s degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. She was appointed by President Ford as the U.S. State Department delegate to the United Nations International Women’s Year Conference. She was secretary and board member of the Pennsylvania Historical Society and board member of the State System of Higher Education.
They established the prestigious Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Lehigh to serve the institutions which comprise the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC). They also endowed two chairs in Jewish Studies at Lehigh and another chair at Lafayette College, as well as an overseas visiting professor at Lehigh. They also contributed numerous pieces of art to the university that grace the campuses to this day.
Philip passed away in 1997, and Muriel in 2004. In 2006, the Bermans’ personal papers were donated to Lehigh, where they become part of special collections. Their daughter, Nancy Berman Bloch, continues their tradition of philanthropy and service, as a member of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees, serving as chair of the cultural affairs committee.