Silver Star recipient, Michael R. Bernique, AM ’70, funds a professorship at Chicago Booth.
- October 18, 2018
- Booth Donors
“Bernique regarded his years at the university as the most ‘intellectually exciting’ time of his life."
Upon his honorable discharge from the Navy, Bernique went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago. He regarded his years at the university as the most ‘intellectually exciting’ time of his life. Hans Morgenthau, the renowned political scientist and expert in international relations, was his favorite professor. He played a very important role in Bernique’s educational experience and, decades after graduation, Bernique remained proud that Morgenthau oversaw his thesis.
After receiving his advanced degree from the university, Bernique joined IBM and met his first wife, Diana. They lived in various areas throughout the country as Michael pursued higher positions and better opportunities in increasingly important management positions at Exxon, Federal Signal Corporation, Northern Telecom, Motorola, DSC, including president of General Instrument. He retired in the 1990s, and in 2010, Diana died from complications of lifelong diabetes.
"He loved his time at the University of Chicago. Through this gift, he hoped to ensure the school remains a place that honors excellence."
In early 2012, soon after he married Mimi, Bernique was diagnosed with squamous facial skin cancer and began a prolonged, brave battle against the disease. By early 2016, he understood his was a fatal illness, and refined his bequest to the University of Chicago, funding the Michael R. Bernique Family Professorship at Chicago Booth.
“Michael had always been impressed that in the World War II years, the university hired Jewish faculty—which he said was not the case with some other high-profile Ivy League universities,” said Mimi. “That, along with his memory of Hans Morgenthau, his belief in capitalism, and entrepreneurship, were all underlying factors in his bequest to Booth.”
“When the doctor came to our home to tell us there was nothing more that could be done to fight his cancer, Michael established a professorship at Booth. He trusted Booth would always uphold its reputation as one of the finest business schools anywhere,” Mimi said.
Of her husband’s last days, Mimi said, “he was a warrior in his battle with cancer as he was with everything he took on in life. I would give him another Silver Star for how he handled that long, very difficult walk with cancer. He didn’t complain and kept asking the doctor ‘what do I do next—I want to live.’ He had numerous surgeries, 80 radiation treatments, 75 hyperbaric dives, and multiple sessions of chemo. He just never gave up and yet accepted his final prognosis with great dignity and courage.”
Bernique died in 2016 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Mimi makes the journey from California to Arlington to visit his grave each year.
“At his burial, the Naval band, the movement of the casket from the hearse onto the horse-drawn caisson, the march behind him to the gravesite, the graveside service, 21-gun salute, and Taps—it was incredible and such a tribute to him,” she said. “It’s emotional to visit his grave, but such a blessing and honor for me to do so.”
She recently visited the Hyde Park campus for the first time, a trip that she and Michael hoped to make together after his cancer was cured. Mimi enjoyed her time on campus, meeting students, and imagining Michael walking through the Gothic architecture as a young man.
“Michael possessed a prodigious intellect, incisive wit, commanding presence, deep voice, and hearty laugh. He was larger than life.” Mimi said. “He loved his time at the University of Chicago. Through this gift, he hoped to ensure the school remains a place that honors excellence.”
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