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"A great and wonderful surprise"

David Bernstein's family honors his lifelong commitment by endowing a new lecture series
Posted September 27, 2017
David and Pat Bernstein David and Pat Bernstein

David Bernstein's wife, Pat, invited him to dinner for his birthday last year, and she promised him a special surprise. Bernstein, a university and Johns Hopkins Medicine trustee emeritus and member of the Johns Hopkins SAIS Board of Advisors, expected a group of friends to greet him at the Baltimore restaurant she'd chosen. Instead, he found Johns Hopkins SAIS Dean Vali Nasr and his wife, Darya.

"Dean Nasr told me that my family had given a gift to endow a lecture series with my name on it," says Bernstein, a 1957 graduate of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "It was such a great and wonderful surprise."

The David H. Bernstein Forum, supported by the family's $1 million gift, will enable Johns Hopkins SAIS to host renowned international speakers with diverse viewpoints each year.

The Bernstein Forum debuts on Sept. 28, featuring General (Ret.) David Petraeus

"David has been a friend of Johns Hopkins SAIS for a long time, and since I started my tenure as dean in 2012, I have valued his wise counsel in implementing the school's mandate to educate and prepare the next generation of global leaders," Nasr says. "His generous support for our community has advanced vital faculty, student, and infrastructure needs for over a decade. This lecture series will allow us to connect world leaders to our current students in dialogue about critical global trends."

The series honors Bernstein's legacy at Johns Hopkins SAIS and across the institution. This includes his service as the founding chair of the Krieger School's Advisory Council and as a member of the Carey Business School's advisory board. The gift is also a testament to Bernstein's lifelong interest in international relations, which was seeded in his youth, stoked in his career as a co-founder of Duty-Free International, and nurtured through his friendship with the late Fouad Ajami, the former head of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS.

"He allowed me — at a very old age! — to audit some of his evening courses," recalls Bernstein, who contributed to a professorship and a lecture in Ajami's name shortly after the professor's death. "Before class, I'd sit with him in his office and talk about Arab history, Middle Eastern governments, almost like I was having my own course. He elevated my interest to an even higher level."

Bernstein hopes Johns Hopkins SAIS students will continue to benefit from that type of experience, especially through the new lecture series. The talks, he noted, will debut at a time of great uncertainty in the United States' foreign relations structure and philosophy.

"A great many Americans don't have the background or interest in what goes on in the rest of the world, but we need more Americans to become educated in foreign policy to help fill our government positions," Bernstein says. "SAIS provides an ideal training ground for these kinds of leaders. Our world needs more of what SAIS Has to offer."

This article first appeared in the Johns Hopkins SAIS Magazine, Summer 2017 edition, on page 41.

For more information about the David H. Bernstein Forum, or to make a gift to support Johns Hopkins SAIS, please contact Kim Morton, associate dean of development.