A lifelong resident of Chicago’s South Side with deep ties to the University of Chicago, Lindy Bergman enriched and helped transform the life of her native city and former school through six decades of dedication and generous financial commitment to the arts, education and medical care. Known for her indomitable spirit, she became a tireless champion of helping the blind after losing her eyesight in later years.
Betty Jane (“Lindy”) Bergman, AB’39, died peacefully in her home on Jan. 18. She was 96. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21 at Chicago Sinai Congregation at 15 W. Delaware Place.
Bergman’s contributions to the UChicago community included service on the boards of the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Lying-In Hospital, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Her late husband, Edwin A. Bergman, served on the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees from 1976 to 1986 and was chair of the Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1985. Her son Robert was a member of the UChicago Medicine board until 2013, and her son-in-law Andrew Rosenfield, a University alumnus, is a University Trustee who joined the board in 1996. Her daughter Betsy is a member of the University’s Woman’s Board.
“Lindy Bergman was an extraordinary woman,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “She and her husband had an abiding dedication to the issues of medical care and the arts, and Chicago and its residents have benefited through the commitments they made. She was a wonderful model for how to live a rich and deeply engaged life.”
Bergman’s connection to UChicago dated back to her earliest years. She graduated from the Laboratory Schools in 1935 and then the College in 1939. Over the years, Bergman, along with her husband, also a UChicago alumnus, supported the University in creative and generous ways. She established the Bergman Gallery, home to the Renaissance Society in Cobb Hall, placed artwork throughout the corridors of the University of Chicago Medical Center and was a devoted advocate for the Renaissance Society.
“Lindy cherished the arts and valued her relationships with the artists,” said Arthur Sussman, a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, who served with Bergman on institutional committees. “She contributed to many of their accomplishments and valued her many relationships with students, staff and faculty. She was a true friend of the University.”
Bergman endowed the Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professorship, currently held by Prof. Mark Siegler, and the Edwin A. Bergman Scholarship in the College. During the University’s Campaign for the Next Century in the 1990s, she was committed to long-term funding for the Bergman Family Eye Center.
In addition, Bergman was a life member of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees, a life member of the Humanities Visiting Committee, a life member of the board of governors of the Smart Museum of Art, a member of the Women's Board and a life member of the Music Visiting Committee.
Patron of the Arts
Bergman and her husband were passionate art collectors—she attributed her interest in modern art to a course she had taken at UChicago in the 1950s. A teacher at the class recommended her a book called Masters in Modern Art. “Every night we would start reading about art,” she told her friend Beth Finke, an author and journalist. “That’s how it (art collection) all began. We really educated ourselves.” Subsequently, Bergman and her husband became established as modern art collectors and assembled a legendary collection of mostly Surrealist art, including the definitive collection of works by Joseph Cornell.
In 1991, Bergman gave the bulk of her family collection, including seminal works by Magritte, Ernst, Picasso, Miro, Dali and Cornell, to the Art Institute of Chicago. With this donation, which was hailed as “one of the most important gifts of art in [the Art Institute’s] 112-year history,” Bergman transformed the stature of the museum as a repository of the Surrealist and near-Surrealist material. The collection is now a core part of the permanent collection and displayed cohesively in the Edwin A. and Lindy Bergman Gallery in the Museum’s Modern Wing.
Other important works from the Bergman’s collection were also donated and currently reside in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, and The Israel Museum, among others.
After donating her collection, Bergman took to writing and in 2011, authored a book “Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind,” which documented her fight with vision loss due to macular degeneration. She provided guidance and advice for those with the same affliction
“While everyone knew that Lindy was smart, gracious, generous and charming, what they didn't always expect was that she had a sharp, irreverent, wicked sense of humor,” said David Epstein, who was a family friend of Bergman.
“Lindy Bergman was a woman of great warmth and generosity with an exceptional gift for friendship," said University of Chicago President Emerita Hanna H. Gray. “She demonstrated through her wide-ranging philanthropy, her constructive participation in so many different areas of university life, and her unwavering advocacy for its purposes an unmatched devotion to the University. Lindy brought good cheer to every gathering and a spirit of optimism and caring to every encounter. Her modesty and grace, and her determination to support the best in education, medicine and art, made her a special and greatly cherished member of our community.”
In addition to her son Robert and daughter Betsy, Bergman also is survived by daughter Carol Cohen, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her honor to the University of Chicago’s Odyssey Scholarship program.