Leading by Example
That’s how Jim OD ’60 and Mary Fair Berglund ’58 describe life as they left the Midwest to study at Pacific University.
“We had three young children, we were both taking classes, working hard, and there wasn’t much time. But it was great,” said Mary Berglund. “We were small-town kids, and so we were very happy in Forest Grove and at Pacific.”
The Berglunds are among Pacific’s most generous donors. They recently were among the inaugural class of donors inducted into the 1849 Society, Pacific’s newest giving society recognizing those whose lifetime contributions have totaled $1 million or more. Berglund Hall, on Pacific’s Forest Grove Campus, bears their name, and they also founded the Berglund Center, and supported the founding of the College of Business and numerous other endeavors at Pacific.
Following their own time at Pacific, the Berglunds returned to their hometown of Spencer, Iowa. Jim Berglund went into optometry practice with his father-in-law and later moved into the business side of eye care. He quickly became a known as an innovative and respected leader in the field.
He was president of Central Laboratories in Lincoln, Neb., an early manufacturer of contact lenses. When American Optical acquired the business, he became general manager of its contact lens division. Next, he was president of Continuous Curve Contact Lens, Inc., which he led to success before it was acquired by Revlon.
Throughout his career, Jim Berglund has had the rare ability to anticipate and embrace change. He recognized early, for example, the potential of the contact lens, when other optometrists held out.
“I didn’t at first think of myself as a business leader or innovator,” he said. “I was a practicing optometrist. But it was something in me, I think, that when others were resisting change or new ideas, I seemed to be able to find practical ways to look forward, see potential and make it work.”
After a short retirement, Jim Berglund founded Enterprise Partners Venture Capital, specializing in start-ups.
"It's nice that when you make a gift to Pacific, you know it can make a big difference."
– Mary Fair Berglund '58
Meanwhile, Mary Berglund has found her own success. She earned a degree in economics from Pacific, earning the Pacific President’s Cup for the graduating student with the highest grade point average. She then earned master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from the University of Nebraska, where she became a faculty member.
When the couple moved to southern California, she served on the faculty at the University of San Diego and the University of California, Irvine. She also has held posts at the Federal Railroad Administration and Department of Agriculture.
Wherever they have gone, the Berglunds have remained committed supporters of Pacific University and of their communities. Jim Berglund has served on 55 boards of directors of various companies and nonprofit organizations, many in the San Diego area where the Berglunds now reside. Mary Berglund also has been an active community leader, serving as director and board member of numerous organizations.
Jim Berglund served on the Pacific University Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2009 and remains a trustee emeritus. In 2011, he was the inaugural recipient of the College of Optometry’s Kamelia Massih Prize for a Distinguished Optometrist.
Today, their daughter Julie Berglund Baker continues the family tradition as a member of the Pacific University Board of Trustees and chair of its Academic Affairs Committee.
The Berglunds’ commitment to Pacific is a way to give back to an institution that gave them a foundation.
“We were taught to think, to ask why. It wasn’t about just doing things by rote, or doing one procedure and then the next on down the line,” Jim Berglund said. “It was about the why, it was about thoughtfulness. And I think it has to do with the strong connection and foundation of the liberal arts at Pacific. That’s very valuable.”
“The university was good to us,” Mary Berglund said. “We are glad we can help out. It’s nice that when you make a gift to Pacific, you know it can make a big difference.” ■
1849 Society Donors
Pacific University is honored to introduce the 1849 Society, a new level of recognition for our donors who give $1 million to the university throughout their lifetimes. The inaugural class of 1849 Society members were inducted in early October at the annual Celebration of Giving.
This story first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Pacific magazine. For more stories, visit pacificu.edu/magazine.