For three generations and 60 years, the Berg family from Pipestone, Minnesota, has been making South Dakota State University a second home.
On Feb. 19 at the men’s basketball game against St. Thomas, the Bergs will be honored as the SDSU Family of the Year by the SDSU Alumni Association. In addition to being honored during the basketball game, the Bergs will be the guests of honor at a luncheon that day with SDSU President Barry Dunn at the SDSU Alumni Center.
Like Dunn, the Bergs’ roots are in agriculture, but through three generations the family also has seen members graduate from eight academic majors: ag education, ag journalism, animal science, dairy manufacturing, economics, microbiology and biotechnology, electrical engineering and nursing.
The Bergs connection with SDSU began in 1962 when Marlin Berg, a vocational ag instructor at Jasper, Minnesota, near Pipestone, started taking required continuing education credits. The Willmar, Minn., native had earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota.
“Growing up in central Minnesota, I didn’t know too much about SDSU, but I liked what I saw. I got to know some of the professors and figured out it was a really good school,” said Berg, who took classes with ag department stalwarts like Phil Plumart, Dan Gee and John Romans.
He decided to get enough credits for a master’s degree in ag education, usually making the 45-mile drive for night classes while also taking some summer classes.
Kids get early SDSU exposure
Marlin and Donna Berg had just started their family. Barbara, Philip and Daniel had arrived by the time Marlin had earned his master’s degree in 1966. Daryl completed the family when he was born in 1967.
While the children didn’t remember Dad’s trips to campus to earn his advanced degree, they did get plenty of SDSU exposure.
The Bergs moved to their farm 4 miles south of Pipestone on Highway 23 in 1974 and the children learned to care for their Suffolk sheep flock. They accompanied Dad when he took teams to Little International and other judging contests hosted at State. By the time they were in high school, the Berg children were competing themselves.
Earned degrees, gained spouses at State
When it came time to enroll in college, the selection process was simple. “I don’t know that any of them considered any other school,” Berg said.
Their firstborn, Barbara, was interested in nursing. SDSU had a strong nursing program and was relatively close, Berg said. Philip, Daniel and Daryl followed her lead.
In a span of six years, all four had earned their degrees—Barbara, nursing, 1985; Philip, animal science, 1986; Daniel, electrical engineering, 1989; and Daryl, dairy manufacturing, 1990. Two–Daniel and Daryl—met their spouses on campus. Daniel met Lora Duxbury, 1988, ag journalism, through Little International. Daryl met Mary Hegna, 1990, nursing, through social activities at Hansen Hall, which was then the residence hall for ag students.
Marlin and Donna Berg have seen seven of their grandchildren attend State, the latest being Isaac Berg, a sophomore majoring in animal science.
Honorary Block and Bridle member
As the vocational ag instructor and FFA adviser at Jasper and Pipestone high schools from 1959 to 1993, Marlin Berg took hundreds of students to SDSU to participate in Little I and various judging contests. He estimated more than 70 of his students became SDSU students and he welcomed dozens of SDSU student-teachers into his classroom.
Among them is Rosie Nold, a 1988 animal science graduate, who has served as assistant department head in animal science since 2014.
In 1986, Marlin Berg was recognized as an honorary member of SDSU Block and Bridle, a national organization for those connected with animal science.
Family leaves imprint at State
Berg family members made an impact while on campus and some continue to do so. Some highlights:
• In 1984, Philip was 10th individually in the national collegiate meat judging contest and the team placed first. Currently, as Pipestone Lamb and Wool Management instructor at Minnesota State West Community College, he sets up meat judging contests at SDSU for 4-H and FFA participants from southern Minnesota.
• In 1986, Daniel was a member of the meat judging team that placed ninth nationally. In 1987, he was an assistant coach on the team that placed ninth nationally. As an alum, the quality and regulatory manager for Spartronics serves on the industrial advisory board for the SDSU electrical engineering department.
• In 1988, Daryl was a member of the meat judging team that placed seventh nationally.
• In 1986, Lora (Duxbury) Berg served as Block and Bridle Queen. Today, she directs marketing and communications for the SDSU College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and is a winner of the F.O. Butler Award at SDSU for Excellence in Community Service. In addition, she has mentored and influenced hundreds of SDSU students through her club advisory role.
• In 2015, Philip’s daughter Samantha, a dairy manufacturing student, was one of three students to develop the quickly popular Barry Berry ice cream flavor during her senior year.
• In 2018, Samantha Berg-Koep and her husband, Evan Koep, served as Little I judges.
• In 2019, Philip’s son Andrew served as master of ceremonies for Little I.
• In 2020, Daryl’s son Brandon was Little I treasurer.
Family leaves imprint beyond State
The Berg family impact in their chosen professions, especially, food production, is remarkable, with a lasting impact:
Since 1988, Daryl has had leadership roles in dairy processing, egg processing, meat processing and coffee processing. Under his leadership, one of the plants received the national Malcolm Baldridge Award two years in a row. He routinely provides opportunities for SDSU students through internships and permanent positions.
Daryl’s son, Brandon, works for a large egg processor in Iowa.
Phillip’s daughters, Samantha and Hannah, collectively interned at five dairy and food companies.
‘Strong sense of family loyalty’
The family was nominated by Vikram Mistry, interim associate deans of academic programs in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.
He wrote, “To be a Berg is to have a strong sense of family loyalty and a serious commitment to be involved and make a difference in your community. This nomination reflects a strong tradition of participation and leadership among all of the members of this family during their time at South Dakota State University and in the successful careers that were made possible by their education at SDSU.
“The strong SDSU pride and dedication to this institution makes the Berg family worthy of consideration for SDSU Family of the Year.”