Services are set for Sunday, Oct. 22, for Barry M. Bergh, 72, a much-loved English teacher at the Haverford School, who died Sept. 1 of heart and respiratory failure at a hospice in Matthews, N.C.
Mr. Bergh, a former resident of Haverford, joined the Main Line school’s faculty in the winter of 1978 as a substitute for legendary English teacher Robert U. Jameson, a mainstay for 43 years before falling ill during the first semester of that year.
“He soon won the respect and devotion of Bob Jameson’s fiercely loyal students,” Mr. Bergh’s family said in an appreciation.
Mr. Bergh, who remained at the all-male day school for 22 years, was a master teacher, determined to see his students succeed, long before that term became part of the independent-school culture.
His classes were “a feast of erudition and verbal exuberance, filled with digressions into history, the history of ideas, and national and international affairs,” his family wrote.
“These detours were endlessly engaging and unfailingly purposeful and informative. He taught his Haverford men to love literature, to cherish and explore the magic of the English language, to think with clarity and depth, and to write with confidence, panache, and a disciplined sense of purpose.”
He also made them laugh, modeling the value of a sense of humor.
Mr. Bergh threw himself into the life of the school as adviser to Haverford’s student newspaper and chairman of the curriculum committee.
He also led Haverford’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society, a role he loved because it gave him the chance to honor with a medal the school’s highest achievers.
If there was a student activity afoot, Mr. Bergh was there. He attended student plays and musical recitals, chaperoned student dances, and was on the sidelines for athletic events.
His loyalty to Haverford’s ice hockey team was so unflagging that the school created an award that bears his name.
During free time, he made himself available to students to help with an assigned essay, for instance, or to listen with empathy to pupils in distress.
He saved every letter a student ever wrote him, and they number in the hundreds, his family said.
His role as thespian in Haverford plays was exceptional. He performed in three productions of operas by Gilbert and Sullivan, as well as portraying Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
“A few older members of that audience, who had seen Lee J. Cobb in the play’s first public performance at the Locust Street Theatre in Philadelphia in 1949, thought Mr. Bergh’s Willy Loman even finer than that of the acclaimed professional,” Mr. Bergh’s family said it had been told by a Haverford colleague.
The son of Clifford and Vivian Bergh, he grew up in Madison, N.J. He graduated from Madison High School and was a 1966 history graduate from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He later earned a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
While an undergraduate, he immersed himself in college activities, just as he would later do at the Haverford School.
After graduate school, he served as an aide to Michigan Gov. George Romney, in Romney’s 1968 presidential bid, and then as a deputy assistant to New York Mayor John Lindsay.
Mr. Bergh taught English at Mercersburg Academy in Franklin County, Pa., and served as speech writer for Joseph Blatchford, the third director of the Peace Corps. On hearing of his death, officials posted online.
“We are sorry to learn of the passing of Barry, but are grateful for his service to our nation as a speech writer for the director of the Peace Corps,” the National Peace Corps Association wrote.
His last job before joining Haverford’s faculty was as an assistant to William Ruckelshaus, the first director of the Environmental Protection Agency.
In retirement starting in 2000, he never lost track of old friends, former students, or colleagues. He lived with his sister, Barbara Hazan, in Suwanee, Ga., and since August, with nephew Jeff Hazan and his family in Matthews, N.C.
He is survived by his sister, a nephew, and nieces. A brother and sister died earlier.
A celebration of Mr. Bergh’s life will be at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, in Centennial Hall at Haverford School, 450 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, Pa. 19041.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Haverford School at the address above.