Kath­leen Berger

Lower-school ad­mis­sions di­rec­tor at Boys’ Latin School was a pres­ence at the school for 30 years

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD OBITUARIES - By Jacques Kelly jacques.kelly@balt­sun.com

Kath­leen Mur­phy Berger, a teacher and ad­mis­sions di­rec­tor at Boys’ Latin School who was re­called as a revered fig­ure in the school for three decades, died of can­cer com­pli­ca­tions Sept. 22 at her home in the Baltimore County com­mu­nity of Phoenix. She was 65. Born in Philadel­phia, Kath­leen Anne Mur­phy was the daugh­ter of John J. “Jack” Mur­phy Jr., who worked in mar­ket­ing with Gen­eral Elec­tric, and his wife, Loretta Sul­li­van.

The fam­ily moved to Salem, Va. and Cincin­nati be­fore set­tling in Con­necti­cut.

She was a 1970 grad­u­ate of Stam­ford Catholic High School and re­ceived a Bach­e­lor of Arts de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion from Notre Dame Univer­sity of Mary­land.

She met her fu­ture hus­band, Frank E. Berger, then a Loy­ola Univer­sity stu­dent, at a school dance. They mar­ried in 1974. She and her hus­band moved to Cock­eysville, and she be­gan teach­ing at Sparks Ele­men­tary School. Af­ter rais­ing a fam­ily, she ob­tained a mas­ter’s de­gree at Loy­ola Univer­sity Mary­land.

Mrs. Berger be­gan a 30-year ca­reer at the Boys’ Latin School of Mary­land in 1987. She ini­tially taught first grade, a post she held for a decade. She then joined the school’s admission’s of­fice and be­came its di­rec­tor of lower-school ad­mis­sions.

“She had a way of mak­ing the boys here feel com­fort­able,” said the school’s head­mas­ter, Christo­pher J. Post. “Over the years she im­pacted hun­dreds, thou­sands of stu­dents. She was gen­tle and op­ti­mistic and had the abil­ity to see the bright­ness in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions. She also had a way of mak­ing par­ents see the po­ten­tial in their sons.”

He re­called how Mrs. Berger kept up with stu­dents by writ­ing them notes, of­ten af­ter they had grad­u­ated. She was a reg­u­lar at stu­dent func­tions and at­tended sports events and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties

“She em­braced all facets at Boys’ Latin — class­room, field and stage,” Mr. Post said.

Her also re­called her per­son­al­ity. “She quickly de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as a hard-work­ing, hum­ble and thought­ful col­league. Kate looked for ar­eas where she could help to make a dif­fer­ence, and no task was too great or too small. Through it all, her un­bri­dled op­ti­mism char­ac­ter­ized ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion she had here.”

The school’s alumni as­so­ci­a­tion awarded her its 2016 John Kerns Award for her “clearly ev­i­dent qual­ity, ded­i­ca­tion and de­vo­tion to the school.”

Col­leagues said she would vol­un­teer to cover a class when a fel­low teacher was ab­sent. She had a re­ten­tive mem­ory of Boys’ Latin stu­dents af­ter their grad­u­a­tions.

“Bring­ing your young son into a new school can be daunt­ing,” said Jimmy Cur­rie, the school’s di­rec­tor of mid­dleschool ad­mis­sions.

“She had a way of mak­ing fam­i­lies feel at ease.”

He re­called how one par­ent bonded so closely with Mrs. Berger that the mother brought her a box of home­made cook­ies each March 1 for a decade — March 1 was then the ac­cep­tance date for the school.

“Kate looked for the good in peo­ple,” he said. “She was also a doer. She was will­ing to take on the big­ger as­sign­ment.”

She had not re­tired at the time of her death.

Mrs. Berger had a fond­ness for Thanks­giv­ing and hosted fam­ily gath­er­ings. She worked for weeks be­fore the day pre­par­ing items such as cran­berry rel­ish, a dish orig­i­nated by a grand­mother who ran an inn in Maine. She kept its for­mula to her­self — it con­tained or­anges and ap­ples — and dis­trib­uted jars of it to fac­ulty mem­bers, neigh­bors and friends. She also worked with her sis­ters Eileen and Mar­garet on Mur­phy fam­ily re­unions at Fair­field Beach, Conn.

Mrs. Berger was a Eucharis­tic min­is­ter at the Catholic Com­mu­nity of St. Fran­cis Xavier in Cock­eysville, where she gath­ered stu­dent vol­un­teers and their par­ents for work days with Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity in the Sand­town-Winch­ester neigh­bor­hood.

Sur­vivors in­clude her hus­band of 43 years, a re­tired MBNA ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent; three sons, Tim Berger of Sil­ver Spring; Brian Berger of Green­wood Vil­lage, Colo. and Dan Berger of Tow­son; eight sis­ters, Eileen Sul­li­van of Lon­don­derry, N.H., Mary Sch­midtke of Honolulu, Hawaii, Christina Bran­nock of Highlands Ranch, Colo., El­iz­a­beth Shaugh­nessy of Phoenix in Baltimore County, Mar­garet Car­ley of Port­land, Ore., Claire Mur­phy of Rich­mond, Va., Darcy Witham of Stam­ford, Conn. and Stephanie Fisher of Chan­has­sen, Minn.; and seven grand­chil­dren.

A me­mo­rial Mass was of­fered Tues­day at the Catholic Com­mu­nity of St. Fran­cis Xavier. Kath­leen Berger kept in touch with many stu­dents af­ter their grad­u­a­tion.

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