Sometimes the University of Arizona is more than just the backdrop for a love story. For the Berges, love for each other and for their alma mater was deep and lasting.
After graduating and marrying, the couple became active volunteers and steadfast donors.
Craig Berge passed away in 2017. Nancy and her family recently celebrated his memory by making a gift to the university that meant so much to him. The gift named the College of Engineering’s design program and established an endowed chair for the dean of engineering and another for the director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. Both chairs are also named for Craig.
Nancy Berge wrote this account of their love story in 2003.
Finding the Man of My Dreams
I first saw Craig Berge, the man of my dreams, in September 1951. It was the first week of my sophomore year at Mesa High School. I looked for this new guy for months without success, then danced with him at the Christmas formal.
Months later, I was assigned Craig as a geometry tutor and he asked me to be his date for the junior-senior prom. I felt like the most special person in the world that night.
It was a fairy tale romance and always has been. Yes, it had its ups and downs. We were only 15 and 16. Everyone told us we were too young and too different. My father’s business was an auto wrecking yard, while Craig’s parents owned the local Ford dealership.
Craig inspired me to want more out of life, to improve my grades so I could go to college, as he planned to do. He convinced me I should want to be more than a store clerk or a secretary. He would say: “Nancy, you have to go to college!” He made me feel any goal was attainable.
The night before Craig left for the University of Arizona, he told me I shouldn’t be tied to a boyfriend away at college. I thought I would die when he said that! He told me he wanted to marry me one day, but not until he was 25 and making $10,000 a year. He kissed me goodbye and said, “I hope you are still available.”
I improved my grades, became involved in student government and enjoyed my friendships. He included me as much as he could in his college life, and I tried to figure out how to get to the University of Arizona.
I did just that. My great aunt, Nancy Lee Anderson, her husband, Andy, and her daughter, Nancy, offered to send me to college. From that point on, Craig and I were in each other’s lives constantly.
He belonged to the best fraternity on campus, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and was in every honorary and activity the campus could offer. He insisted I join a sorority; I chose Chi Omega. It was there that I learned I had leadership skills. I was active in every aspect of my sorority.
Craig and I had the time of our lives. We made lifelong friends and participated in so many wonderful events. We both feel the University of Arizona helped us to find the right direction for our futures, and our debt will never be paid in full.
Although I was not as academic as Craig, I was also honored in some ways of which I am very proud. I was selected Sigma Alpha Epsilon Gold Dust Queen, University of Arizona Homecoming Queen and a member of the College of Education’s outstanding teacher’s organization.
I worked hard and graduated a semester early to save my aunt, uncle and cousin the extra money. Many years later, I was able to repay their generosity when Craig and I established the Nancy Lee and Arthur P. Anderson Scholarship in the College of Education.
We both worked hard at our careers, his engineering and mine teaching. When we married in 1961, it was a dream come true. While we raised the beautiful family we were blessed with, Craig’s world expanded from engineering to owning automobile dealerships and many other businesses. My career was teaching until I became a mother. Later, I added charity work to my life.
Craig is still my gladiator, my knight in shining armor. He is the most generous, handsome, loving man I have ever met. I am so proud each day to know I am his and he is mine. Craig has made every dream I ever had come true.
He is and always has been the man of my dreams, since the first time I laid eyes on him.