Rick Berk, Alpha Upsilon (Drexel)

At Brown Brothers Harriman, he is currently responsible for the Risk Management and Compliance Divisions and has also served as the Head of Technology, Head of Products and Pricing and has held various other operational roles. He has a BS in Computer Science from Drexel University (1986) and lives in Duxbury, MA with his wife Christine.

1. If you had the opportunity to start your collegiate career over again from scratch, is there anything you’d do differently? If so, why?
Though I enjoyed my time at Drexel, it was close to home. My own kids, a son and daughter, both went to school further from home, and would say that the experience of being unable to drive home for the weekend or a weeknight increased their independence and caused them to make deeper personal relationships faster. So if I did it again, I’d probably challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and cut the apron strings…That said, if I would have chosen a university further from home, I would not have met my wife of 30 years and might not have had my current career, which I love and which started with a Drexel Co-op experience.

2. As an alumnus, you’ve clearly been a leader for Pi Kappa Phi. How has the concept of leadership changed for you over the years?
Developing an understanding of what leadership is and how to be a leader has always been important to me throughout my career. The best way to become a leader is to undertake a lifelong study of great leaders. Look for leadership in your teachers and bosses, but also in your peers, and in those who are coming after you. Some of the best leadership lessons I’ve learned have come from my kids. Leadership lessons have to resonate with your values, but can come from familiar or lofty places. If I could pick one great leader from US history to have dinner with, it’d be Ben Franklin (I’ll have to put up with standing near his statue – pictured above). A piece of great American wisdom for those of you who want to go on to lead a company, team, or other commercial or familial enterprise:

“Beware of little expenses: a small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin

Community leadership, or leadership as it relates to “giving back”, is something I’ve come to understand a bit more as I get older. Though I have always felt a connection to Pi Kappa Phi and have contributed financially for years, I have only recently become actively involved. I credit my friend and brother Curt Herzog for reaching out to me after 30 years of non-engagement and encouraging me to become involved as an alumni. I am very active now, realizing how much I appreciate the opportunity to make an impact on a great organization that helped me get my start, and through which I now have the opportunity to support the initiatives that will help young men of our fraternity as they begin their life journeys.

3. What are some of the most important pieces of advice you’ve received in your life?
I’ve been blessed throughout my life with people that have shared their best thoughts and advice with me. My family, friends, mentors, colleagues and fraternity brothers have all provided advice that has helped me throughout the years. Some of the best advice:

  • Work hard and good things will happen
  • Family comes first
  • Don’t be afraid to fail – it’s a great way to learn
  • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something – or ask a question
  • Help others succeed and you will succeed too

4. What have been two or three of your most meaningful Pi Kappa Phi experiences?
The pledging experience – ultimately showed me when a group comes together and support one another through thick and thin, it builds lifelong connections.

I had to become less active during my last two undergraduate years and multiple times thought of leaving school or switching majors. The support and encouragement of my brothers helped me get through these challenges. Something I will never forget.

Meeting Curt Herzog, Tom Atwood and Mark Timmes who encouraged me to re-engage after so many years.

Attending my first Supreme Chapter this last July where I got meet so many other alumni and of course Durward Owen – a true legend!

5. Between all of the undergraduate and alumni members of Pi Kappa Phi, there are brothers that span so many different “ages and stages” of life. What have you learned about brotherhood, and also leadership, that could apply to all of those men, no matter their stage of life?
That brotherhood is a lifelong experience and the role it plays in your life is up to you. You can come and go – but your fraternity and brothers are always there (and you are there for them). For me, it has always been there in my heart and mind, and the values it instilled in me led me to a career that emphasizes the core tenants of brotherhood – teamwork and respect for others (to name a few).