MIT is a tremendous institution that contributes in many ways to educating people and doing world-class research. I’m glad they have undertaken work to better understand the brain,” says Donald Berkey of Naples, Fla., who along with his wife, Doris, recently established a professorship in MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. “We hope that by making this gift, it will help increase understanding that can lead to solutions for Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease,” he says. “If these researchers are successful, it will be a great contribution to the wider society.”
The Berkeys, whose youngest son has bipolar disorder, decided to make the gift after coming across an article about MIT’s work in this area. Soon after, they contacted the Institute and chose to establish a professorship, which is now held by Robert Desimone, director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
“We hope that something significant will come from the bipolar research,” Berkey says. “But we also feel more broadly that this effort should be in further understanding the brain.”
Raised in Somerset, Pa., the son of a businessman, Donald Berkey earned a bachelor’s degree from MIT in mechanical engineering in 1942 and a master’s in 1943. The day after he graduated from MIT, he married Doris, whom he had met at a Boston church when he was a freshman. A week later, he began work at General Electric, where he worked nearly 40 years.
Berkey was responsible for the design and development of gas turbine systems. First, during World War II, he worked on jet engines in Schenectady, N.Y., then in Lynn, Ma., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Stamford, Ct. He rose through the company and became vice president and general manager of the Energy Systems and Technology Division. His projects included the development of the first successful high-bypass turbofan engine for the U.S. Air Force C-5, a large transport plane. During the oil shortage in the 1970s and President Jimmy Carter’s “war on energy,” his work centered on advanced technologies for solar energy, coal, and nuclear power. He retired in 1982 at age 62.
“I feel that MIT did a great thing for me. I appreciated the education I got there,” Berkey says. “I found that when I left the Institute and began to work in industry, I had a great background and was very proud of my education. We made this gift because it’s important to give back.”