Univ. grad, WTC widow to give commencement address

Jessie Markovetz

Suzanne Torregrossa Berger ’85, whose husband died while rescuing people from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, will speak to the class of 2002 during the commencement exercises this May.

Her husband, James Berger ’78, was buried in the rubble of the South Tower following its collapse. Mr. Berger had successfully evacuated 156 employees from his firm’s office on the 101st floor when he returned to provide further assistance. He was never seen again.

In the seven months since the attack, Mrs. Berger has spent her time caring for her three sons: Nicholas, 9, Alex, 7, and Christian, 3. Additionally, she has become a voice for people who lost friends and family in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Berger has been featured multiple times in The Philadelphia Inquirer and has also appeared on CNN and ABC’s “20/20” to talk about her husband’s heroism and her experiences following her loss. Most recently, Berger gave the keynote speech at Peace Week at Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia. She is scheduled to speak at Team America, a bike ride from ground zero to the nation’s capital, on Sept. 11 of this year.

After graduating from the University’s College of Nursing, Mrs. Berger accepted an oncology internship at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. She met her husband in the area, who was working for the firm of Miller, Mason and Dickenson. The couple moved back to the East Coast after two years, with Mr. Berger working at the AON Corporation, which had taken over Miller, Mason and Dickenson, and his wife stationed in Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia as a nurse recruiter. She later went back to nursing, this time at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, until the birth of their first son.

Mrs. Berger is currently a member of the Home School Board at the Grey Nun Academy in Yardley, Pa., where two of her children are enrolled. Additionally, she serves as the music coordinator for First Penance and First Eucharist.

University President Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A., feels that Berger will help “memorialize what happened in [the class of 2002’s] year of graduation.”

“I think she will show how the values of Villanova helped her through this,” he continued. “The more [people] think about it, the more appropriate they feel it is.”

Other honorary degrees will be conferred upon Lily Yeh, executive director and lead artist of Philadel-phia’s The Village of Arts and Humanities, in fine arts, Robert M. Birmingham ’66, immediate past chairman of the Board of Trustees, in law, Professor Wayne C. Booth, scholar and writer, and Wolfgang Sawallisch, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra since 1990.