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Ross: Bill Berman was my role model


Bill Berman, a successful Detroit businessman and philanthropist, passed away last week at age 99 (Re: The Detroit News’ Dec. 26 article, “Mandell ‘Bill’ Berman remembered as giver, great father). While his family and many in the community will miss him terribly for his generosity and wisdom, I will miss him for an additional reason. He was my role model.

Role models are critical because they help us figure out how to pursue fulfilling lives, and do the right thing in both our private and public lives.

More than abstract injunctions to live moral and purposeful lives, role models give us flesh and blood examples to learn from and measure ourselves against. Often they come to us early in life when we are still seeking our direction. Bill showed me the path forward after I was already receiving Social Security.

When Bill sold his businesses in the 1970s, he could have retired to a comfortable life. But instead he chose to stay in the public arena in order to make a difference. In addition to investing in his beloved Jewish community and the arts, he supported efforts to ensure Detroit children got the education they deserved for a real shot at the American Dream.

In animated discussions literally until the month he died, he focused on the future, not the past. He was excited by new ideas, always eager to discuss and debate the best way to tackle a pressing community problem. Unlike so many who grow old, he was relentlessly hopeful and optimistic.

Bill is gone. But his life has gifted me a road map to live the next 25 years of my life should I be lucky enough to equal his 99 years.

Doug Ross, president

American Promise Schools