Ann and Neal Berte




Outdoor Classroom


John Stewart Jackson

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Neal Richard Berte was president from 1976 until 2004 of Birmingham-Southern College and served as chancellor from 2004 until 2006.

Berte was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from the University of Cincinnati, with a research interest in the use of "learning contracts" in higher education. He published a much-cited book on the subject in 1975. After serving as assistant director of the College Entrance Examination Board and assistant to the president at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas, Berte came to Alabama in 1970 to accept the position of Dean of the New College at the University of Alabama. After four years there, he took on the role of Vice President for Education Development for the University. On February 1, 1976 he was sworn in as the 11th president of Birmingham-Southern College. As college President, Berte was known for his incredible ability to recognize and connect with any of the thousands of students passing through the halls. He was very visible, not only on-campus, but at sporting events and service projects wherever they took place. At the same time he was a committed ambassador and fund-raiser, helping secure the college's endowment and reputation. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education named him one of the nation's 100 Most Effective College Presidents and the American Council on Education recognized him as the Administrator of the Year for Alabama. He served as the first president of the Alabama Association of Colleges and Universities and as president of the American Association of Higher Education. He took over the presidency at a time of uncertainty, and through his wise, caring and energetic leadership led the college into its present status as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the United States. Among the characteristics he specifically emphasized during the growth of the school was its commitment to service as well as learning. Berte has led by example, becoming recognized as one of the most influential leaders in the Birmingham region with an extensive record of service to many community groups. He co-founded Leadership Birmingham and Region 2020 and has served as president of the Birmingham Area Chamber of Commerce, the Birmingham Festival of Arts, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham and United Way of Birmingham. He has chaired the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute board and the Birmingham Business Leadership Group and has served on numerous other boards. The Birmingham City Council inducted Berte into its Birmingham Gallery of Distinguished Citizens and as Birmingham Citizen of the Year in 1992. He was also presented with the Erskine Ramsay Award for Outstanding Civic Service. The Birmingham News and Birmingham Post-Herald each named him one of their top 10 local leaders. He was inducted into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame in 2001.

Berte and his wife, Anne are active members of Canterbury United Methodist Church. They have four children: Becky, Julie, Mark and Scott, and eleven grandchildren.

Anne Liles Berte has the distinction of having received dual nominations as a Woman of Distinction. She is described as a "moving force... to make Birmingham a more desirable community by helping to improve race and business relations." She has served as Girl Scout president, chair of the American Red Cross Volunteers, chair of the Festival of Arts, sustaining member of the Junior League of Birmingham, and board member of the Baptist Medical Centers Foundation, Arlington Home and Birmingham Music Club. In addition, she was a member of Leadership Birmingham, Class of 1994 and served on the Executive Board of the Women's Committee of Spain Rehabilitation Center and a member of the Women's Committee for the Alabama Symphony. She has received the Clara Barton Award from the American Red Cross and a Thanks Badge from the Cahaba Girl Scout Council. As a mother, grandmother and community servant, Anne has provided an outstanding example of leadership and civic engagement.


A sculpture that doubles as an outdoor classroom on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College. Sixteen bronze chairs shaped like gingko leaves sit in a semi-circle at the base of one of BSC's iconic gingko trees, creating an organic sculpture when not in use for lectures, discussion, or study. "We hope to develop an environment that encourages contemplation leading to thoughtful conversation," Jackson said in an artist's statement. "I feel the gingko trees inspire this naturally, as they did for me as a child, so I have chosen them as the inspiration for this project."


John Stewart Jackson is an experienced sculptor, known for his interactive and collaborative approach to space, movement and sound. Jackson studied art at Birmingham-Southern College, Alabama, where he was awarded the Art Student of the Year Award for artistry upon his graduation. With a specialization in cast-iron sculpture, Jackson served six years as Foundry Manager at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in the metal arts program, Sloss Metal Arts. He has won numerous awards and commissions for his work, including Birmingham's Best Young Artists Award, a commission by Singapore's Public Utilities Board (PUB) for sculpture at the Marina Barrage, and a performance art commission for the Singapore Management Universities Art Festival Opening Ceremony. Jackson is also known for his collaborations with such notable artists as Singapore ceramic artist Jessie Lim, international musician and composer Dirk Johan Stromberg, and professional dancer and choreographer Heidi Nicole Stoeckley. Jackson recently served as a curriculum specialist, teacher and global arts ambassador for School of the Arts (SOTA) in Singapore for the past 7 years. He has recently developed an art casting foundry in Birmingham, Alabama with Joe McCeary and Kris Merschat, two locally renowned Sculptors.