About the death of Irving A. Berk, 100, the Founder of a Trade and Business School,
Irving A. Berk, who as founder of the Berk Trade and Business School in
New York supervised the training of plumbers, electricians, car
mechanics and secretaries for 65 years, died on June 16 at his home in
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. He was 100.
His death was announced by his son Joel, of Tenafly, N.J.
Mr. Berk opened his school in 1940 in a storefront on Atlantic Avenue
in Downtown Brooklyn, and expanded it five years later when it moved
into a nearby converted tenement building. He helped hundreds of
returning World War II veterans find work after receiving training paid
for under the G.I. Bill. Eventually, the Berk school had four branches,
two in Brooklyn and two in Manhattan, with a significantly expanded
"He defined the need for job training by proprietary schools right
after World War II," said David Brieff of the New York State Education
Department's bureau of proprietary school supervision, which monitors
trade schools. "He was one of the pioneers in the nondegree-granting
sector that provides training in the trades."
Irving Arthur Berk was born on Jan. 11, 1906, and was a year old when
his parents, Chaim and Rachel Bercovic, arrived from Bucharest,
Romania. A clerk on Ellis Island promptly changed their name.
The Berks first lived on the Lower East Side, then moved to Coney
Island. After high school, while working as a plumber, Mr. Berk went to
night school at New York University, graduating in 1936, and earned a
master's degree in education there two years later.
The original Berk school taught nothing but plumbing. Electrical
installation was added when the school moved to its second building.
Later the curriculum expanded to include auto mechanics, building
administration, business administration, accounting, secretarial
training, computer applications, English as a second language, medical
billing, and even the taking of blood for transfusions or tests. About
10,000 students have earned certificates.
Mr. Berk's wife, Ann, died in 1984, and a daughter, Bascia Friedman, in
2001. In addition to his son Joel, he is survived by another son,
Harvey, of Manhattan; a brother, Harry, of Long Beach, N.Y.; nine
grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.