Berger remembered for understanding

Neal Berger came to USF’s College of Education as a visiting professor in 1985. For the following 20 years, he served as a primary evaluator on both state and federal projects concerning education evaluations and licensing.

According to friend and colleague Walter Chason, assistant director for Institute for Instructional Research and Practice, Berger was chiefly responsible for developing the tests that determined whether students had sufficient enough expertise to become a teacher.

On Monday, Berger died of cancer.

“The thing that he valued most in his academic life was teaching, not necessarily in just the classroom,” Chason said. “He was also constantly teaching us about testing and evaluations one on one.”

Berger graduated from Newark State College with a B.A. in science education with an emphasis in biology. He went on to get his master’s degree in recreation administration from Indiana University and later earned a doctorate in educational administration from Florida State University.

As the director of the Institute for Instructional Research and Practice, Berger made trips to Belize, Ghana and Amsterdam, where he helped improve the features of student testing.

“He put a series of exams together (for) measuring achievement,” Chason said. “His desire was to take the testing expertise and offer that to developing countries in the Caribbean, Central America and Africa.”

Berger also helped organize programs for teen pregnancy prevention as director of the Institute for At-Risk Infants, Children & Youth, and Their Families. Approximately four years ago, Berger taught classes on special education.

According to Chason, Berger encouraged several graduate students from his travels and USF’s international community to work with the IIRP.

“He never met a stranger,” Chason said. “People were very encouraged by his openness and ability to come to a quick understanding of what their goals were, and he always had a way of helping people feel at ease around him.”

Berger played an active role in legislation and wrote on a number of education-related policy issues for the Florida House of Representatives.

In his spare time, he enjoyed sailing and woodworking.

“He was very handy,” Chason said. “He had a fairly sizeable sailboat, about 25 to 28 feet, that he maintained himself. He could do wood work, and he could fix just about anything.”

According to Communications Director for the College of Education Jennifer Ford, a memorial service is scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m.