July 28, 2014

‘Adviser, mentor, mother, friend’ Kathy Berggren dies at 46

Kathy Berggren
Berggren

Kathy Berggren ’90, MAT ’93, a senior lecturer in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, died unexpectedly July 24 while attending a conference in Portland, Oregon. She was 46.

Berggren joined the faculty of the Department of Communication in 1993 after studying animal science as a Cornell undergraduate and pursuing an MAT in science education. She taught courses in oral communication and served as advising and internship coordinator before joining the Dyson School faculty this January. At Dyson she was leading the development of a new management communication program.

“The CALS community is shocked and saddened by the abrupt loss of this effervescent woman,” said Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). “Kathy lit up any room with her warmth and sparkling personality. She touched so many lives, on our campus, in our community and well beyond. She truly cared about her fellow citizens, and it showed in her words and deeds. Along with our entire university community, I will miss her.”

Memorial service

A campus memorial service will be held at Sage Chapel at 1 p.m. on Sept. 21, with reception to follow.

Berggren was a faculty adviser to student groups including the Association for Women in Communication, FACES (Facts, Advocacy and Control of Epileptic Seizures), Help a Life Organization and the Touchtones a cappella group. She served on many department, college and university committees, including as co-chair of the CALS Diversity Committee. She was a past board member of WVBR radio station and of the Association for Women in Communication.

Berggren was a fellow for the Center for Outreach and Engagement, where she led a project to design a disability awareness program for middle school students. She was involved in many advocacy efforts in Ithaca, including as a parent advocate for the Ithaca City School District.

Developing engaging curricula and empowering students were two of her passions; she received a Clarion award for curriculum design in 2011. Her teaching and advising efforts have been recognized with Cornell’s Carpenter Award, the CALS Circle Award and several Greek System Excellence in Teaching and Service awards.

“Some people walk into your life, and they don't just touch your life, they change it,” said former student Molly Pfaffenroth ’12, a communication intern at the International Dairy Foods Association. “Not many professors will have you over for dinner with their family, take you along to their yoga class or invite your parents to their home on graduation day. But Kathy did. She was my college professor, my adviser, my life mentor, my Ithaca mother and my friend.”

Berggren is survived by her husband, Martin, a systems administrator for Cornell’s Faculty of Computing and Information Science, and two children.

A funeral service will be held Wednesday, July 30, at Congregation Tikkun v'Or on North Triphammer Road in Ithaca. The service will be held at noon, followed by an open gathering to share memories of Berggren, from 3 to 5 p.m. The Dyson School is also planning to host a campus memorial service in the fall.

Members of the Cornell community seeking support can call Gannett Health Services’ Counseling and Psychological Services (607-255-5155), EARS’ peer counselors (607-255-3277), the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (607-255-2673) or find additional resources at Cornell’s Caring Community.

Stacey Shackford is a writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.