Fred Berger, 67, longtime head of Morristown firm, loses battle with cancer

Tom Bergeron//April 24, 2015//

Fred Berger, 67, longtime head of Morristown firm, loses battle with cancer

Tom Bergeron//April 24, 2015//

Listen to this article

Fred Berger was thrilled when his company got some of the contracts to help rebuild the infrastructure of Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion.It’s just one of the way he helped turn Louis Berger, the Morristown-based company his father founded, into a billion-dollar global professional services consultancy firm.

Berger, however, was about so much more than just rebuilding roads and bridges and dams. He made it his mission to help rebuild societies.

“Fred always stressed educational opportunities for everyone everywhere,” said Pat Quinn, his longtime colleague at the firm. “That was a major part of his life.”

In Afghanistan, Berger was a founding trustee of the American University of Afghanistan in 2004. It was the first private, coeducational, not-for-profit educational institution in the country.

The school, which opened in 2006 with 53 students, now has more than 1,700 full and part-time students.

The school’s ultimate goal, Berger would say only half-jokingly, was to put Louis Berger out of business.

“Fred said we should work ourselves out of a job by establishing engineering schools and associations so countries could learn how to rebuild themselves,” Quinn said. “Fred was a leader in doing that.”

It was just one part of the legacy Fredric S. “Fred” Berger left when he lost his 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer earlier this week in Washington, D.C. He was 67.

Quinn, who worked with Berger for more than four decades at the company, said the industry — and society — has lost a giant.

“He was a good man,” he said. “Charming, intelligent, a leader. Everything you could want at the head of a company.”

Berger was the chairman emeritus of Louis Berger at the time of his death. He previously worked as the chairman of the U.S. operating company, where he was responsible for overseeing the company’s long-range vision and strategic programs. But he may be best known for his work overseas.

Since beginning his career with a three-week assignment in 1972 that turned into a three-year adventure in Nigeria, Berger remained actively involved in Louis Berger’s international development and engineering practices. During his career, he worked on four continents and managed projects in nearly 70 countries, the company said.

“The more countries I worked in, the more it reinforced my belief that engineers, to be useful in the 21st century, need to have international experience and a global perspective,” he said in a 2009 interview.

This belief, the company said, would serve as an impetus for advancing globalization within the engineering and development fields.

According to Louis Berger, he continued to play an active role in the company throughout his illness, helping usher in a new era of modernization and restructuring within the corporation, while championing the company’s global brand consolidation. Most notably, he expanded the company’s partnerships in China with the signing of a 10-year joint venture contract extension with CHELBI in 2014.

Berger was honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2007 with an Outstanding People and Leaders award for his lifetime achievement in management. He served as liaison between ASCE’s International Activities Committee and the American Council of Engineering Companies’ International Committee. He also participated in the advisory board for ASCE’s professional capacity building program in Afghanistan. He served as a vice president in ACEC for two years and also played an active role on ACEC’s Engineering Excellence Awards committee.

According to the company, Berger served as a chairman of the International Engineering and Construction Industry Council, where he led a delegation to Japan to open opportunities for U.S. firms to participate in the Japanese infrastructure expansion program. He also served on the Industrial Trade Advisory Committee on Services for the U.S. Department of Commerce and on the Export-Import Bank’s Southern Africa Advisory Committee.

Berger earned a master of science in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s in economics from Tufts University, where he also served on the board of overseers.

He served as advisory board member of the University of California, San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, and served on the International Advisory Council of the United States Institute of Peace. He also served on the board at The Maret School, an international school in Washington, D.C.

Quinn said Berger’s commitment to education cannot be understated.

“He set up educational opportunities within the company, helping engineers get more of the training they need,” Quinn said. “And he set up numerous scholarships.

“It was something he really believed in.”

Berger is survived by his wife, Elizabeth “Betty” Brannan, and his adult children Sofia, Nathan and Susana. Sofia Berger continues the family legacy as a third-generation executive in the company, currently responsible for leading operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The funeral will begin at 2 p.m. Monday at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mr. Berger’s honor to the American University of Afghanistan at http://auaf.edu.af/giving/.


Senate Republicans put forth 36-bill package aimed at economic growth

Amazon seeking 800 more workers in Robbinsville

Advocacy group’s report puts affordable housing need at 200K statewide