Four to receive 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards, WAA’s highest honor

September 8, 2017

The Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) will honor four alumni with its highest distinction: the Distinguished Alumni Award. WAA is a division of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.

The 2017 recipients are Jim Berbee ’85, MS’87, MBA’89, a UW School of Medicine and Public Health assistant professor; Robert Bergman PhD’66, the Gerald E. K. Branch Distinguished Professor Emeritus in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley; Danae Davis JD’80, the executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds; and Kelly Kahl ’89, the president of CBS Entertainment.

The honorees will accept their awards at a chancellor’s luncheon on the UW–Madison campus on October 19.

Photo: Jim Berbee

Jim Berbee

Jim Berbee is a clinical assistant professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and an emergency physician at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veteran’s Hospital. He started his career as an IBM systems engineer, and in 1993, he founded Berbee Information Networks Corporation in his basement. As the business grew, clients included IBM, Microsoft and Cisco.

A four-time Ironman triathlete, Berbee once broke his collarbone during training, and the care he received inspired an interest in emergency medicine. After selling his highly successful business to the public company CDW in 2006, he attended Stanford University’s School of Medicine and earned his MD in 2010. He subsequently completed his residency in emergency medicine at the UW Hospital and Clinics.

Berbee is also the founder of the Berbee Derby Thanksgiving Day 10K run and 5K run/walk. Proceeds support the Technology Education Foundation, which provides resources to those who are especially vulnerable to the technology gap. He and his wife, Karen Walsh ’81, MA’89, support human health and welfare projects through the BerbeeWalsh Foundation, including a $10 million gift to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Department of Emergency Medicine that has been transformational for faculty, staff and patients. Berbee is a trustee for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Morgridge Institute for Research, and WICell Research Institute.

Photo: Robert Bergman

Robert Bergman

Robert Bergman is a pioneering organic chemist whose findings have led to numerous commercial applications. He discovered a reaction known as the Bergman Cyclization that has had major implications for the pharmaceutical industry. He has also done innovative research in the field of organometallic chemistry. In 1981, Bergman led a team in the discovery of an unusual new group of organometallic complexes that sever carbon-hydrogen bonds, which created an entirely new subfield of chemistry virtually overnight.

Bergman began teaching at the California Institute of Technology in 1967, moving on to serve as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1977. He has been named a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the California Academy of Sciences. He has more than 575 publications and 8 patents to his name.

Bergman has earned some two dozen awards for his research and teaching, including an honorary doctorate from Texas A&M University and the 2017 Wolf Prize in Chemistry. (The Wolf awards are regarded as second only to the Nobel Prize.) He is the initiator and co-developer of the Bay Area Scientists in Schools program, which provides science outreach for elementary school students in the Berkeley area. Now that he has emeritus status, Bergman remains active in research, teaching, and outreach.

Photo: Danae Davis

Danae Davis

Danae Davis has devoted her career to promoting education and helping the most vulnerable in society. She worked as legal counsel for former Wisconsin governor Tony Earl and sought to promote diversity as an executive at Miller Brewing and Kraft Foods. She was a member of the UW System Board of Regents from 2003 to 2011, and in 2008, she earned the Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award from the UW System.

As the executive director and CEO of PEARLS for Teen Girls, Davis served at-risk African-American girls in Milwaukee. In 2014, among 1,300 girls in the program, 97.6 percent graduated from high school and were accepted to at least one college; 99.9 percent avoided teen pregnancy.

In 2015, Davis joined Milwaukee Succeeds, part of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, where she is leading the effort to improve educational outcomes through focusing on children’s readiness to learn, from kindergarten through college and career. The community partnership has showed promising results, particularly in improving third-grade reading skills.

Davis was recently named a Woman of Influence by the Milwaukee Business Journal and attended a prestigious program for nonprofit leaders at the Harvard Business School called Strategic Perspectives on Nonprofit Management. Davis also chairs the board for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, which seeks to make the city more inclusive; and StriveTogether, a national, nonprofit network to improve U.S. educational outcomes from cradle to career.

Photo: Kelly Kahl

Kelly Kahl

It’s very possible that Kelly Kahl is responsible for one of your favorite TV shows. As senior executive vice president for CBS Primetime, he oversaw the planning and scheduling of all primetime programming for more than two decades. He helped build a schedule that included hugely successful shows such as Survivor, Blue Bloods, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Big Bang Theory, CSI, and three editions of the NCIS franchise, ensuring that CBS ranked number one in viewers for 14 of the last 15 seasons.

Kahl was promoted to president of CBS Entertainment in May. His current role involves leading the network’s entertainment division, overseeing programming, research and scheduling, marketing and promotion, digital-interactive, diversity and publicity.

Kahl signed on at CBS in 1996 after several years at Warner Brothers Television. Prior to that, he was with Lorimar Television, starting as a research intern and quickly rising through the ranks as a research analyst and manager. Kahl, whose Twitter handle is cali badger, is well known for his love of Wisconsin sports, and he serves on the Communication Arts Partners board for UW–Madison. He often hosts UW events at his home and at the bar he owns, the Underground Pub, and he has also established a successful internship program at CBS for UW students. Senior Ryan Holtz, this year’s intern, says, “Kelly is extremely hands-on with his interns. His promotion happened just as I was arriving at CBS for the summer, but he was still able to keep his door open for each and every minute question that I had.”

WAA is now accepting nominations for the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards at uwalumni.com/go/nominatedaa.