December 3, 2002

Obituary: Kenneth Newberger, 1909-2002

Kenneth Newberger, a philanthropist, real estate owner, and businessman died on Thursday, November 21, in Palm Beach, Florida. He was 93.

Newberger, who graduated from the University in 1931 with an advanced degree in business, was born and raised in Hyde Park. In the mid-1990s, Newberger and his four living siblings provided the financial resources to establish the Johanna and Herman H. Newberger Hillel Center, a meeting space and chapel for University students named in memory of their parents.

Rabbi David Rosenberg of the Hillel Center described Newberger as a very intelligent, sharp, and thoughtful man. "Mr. Newberger and his family had a real dedication to the University and to Jewish life on campus," Rosenberg said. "They saw Hillel as a resource not only for Jewish students but for the entire community as well. Hillel would be able to do a lot less without the vision of Mr. Newberger and his family."

Newberger was a life member of the Visiting Committee to the University's School of Social Service Administration (SSA). He was an advisor to five SSA deans, said Edward Lawlor, dean of SSA, who remembers Newberger as a man of wonderful wit, intelligence and generosity.

Newberger and his wife Bernice also established the Robert Newberger Scholarship, named after their late son, which provides scholarship money to a number of SSA students. "He cared a great deal about students having the financial resources to go out and do some of society's most difficult jobs," Lawlor said.

In he 1930s, Newberger went to work for Royal Knitting Mills, a Southwest Side sweater and knitted outerwear firm that his father had started in 1896 after arriving in America from Hungary. At about the same time, Newberger started buying older hotels and office buildings throughout Chicago.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Newberger enlisted in the army, serving in England and France and eventually earning the rank of captain. In 1945, he participated in the Battle of the Bulge for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Newberger will be remembered for his tireless and spirited dedication to various organizations and charities. He served as vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and of the Jewish Fund, as trustee of North Shore Congregation Israel, as a director of the Metropolitan Council of Chicago, as director of the Schwab Rehabilitation Institute, as treasurer of Working Mothers Aid, and on the executive committee of the Anti-Defamation League.

He was a benefactor of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Norton Museum of Art, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Highland Park Hospital, and St. Mary's Medical Center.

Kenneth Newberger is survived by Bernice, his wife of 55 years, daughters Nancy Newberger and Susan Brown, grandchildren Jacob, Samuel, and Zachary Brown, his sister, Josephine Strauss, and several nieces and nephews.

"We're going to miss him a great deal," Lawlor said. "He was a wonderful man."