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Couple honors physician with gift for distinguished professorship

Jim Berges and Elizabeth Mannen Berges (Photo: Suzy Gorman) Jim Berges and Elizabeth Mannen Berges (Photo: Suzy Gorman)

Endowment will support leader in gynecologic oncology

Financial adviser Elizabeth Mannen Berges lives each day with heightened gratitude for the basic components of a meaningful life—fulfilling work, caring relationships, and a sense of purpose. A five-time cancer survivor who was first diagnosed at age 26, she is deeply aware that exceptional health care has played a vital role in her ability to attain this life.

“When you are challenged with cancer or another serious illness, having world-class physicians at a world-class research institution is a lifeline,” she says. “I am incredibly fortunate that one of my greatest lifelines for more than 20 years has been physician-scientist David Mutch.”

To honor Mutch, a gynecologist oncologist who treats patients at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, Mannen Berges and her husband, Jim Berges, have made a $3 million gift to the medical school through the Berges Family Foundation to endow a professorship. The David G. and Lynn Mutch Distinguished Professorship, also named for Mutch’s wife of 41 years, will help attract a recognized leader in gynecologic oncology to the university and St. Louis. Income generated from the endowment can be used to bolster the recipient’s clinical and research programs.

“This professorship will support a top-notch physician-scientist who helps the School of Medicine fulfill its tripartite mission of patient care, teaching, and research,” says Mutch, MD ’80, the Ira C. and Judith Gall Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “It will strengthen our ability to advance new treatments that benefit cancer patients in St. Louis and around the world.”

Mannen Berges’ recurring health challenges began in Jackson, Wyo., where she had settled after a five-year stint in Japan working for Hilton International. After receiving a diagnosis of stage IV ovarian cancer, the Cornell University and Ithaca College graduate spent her days enduring chemotherapy while training to become a financial adviser with A.G. Edwards, which later was purchased by Wells Fargo.

She eventually moved to St. Louis, where she built a successful wealth management practice. In November 2020, she married Berges, her longtime friend and client. Looking back, Mannen Berges can hardly remember a time when she wasn’t under the care of Mutch. She is quick to praise his expertise and his personal investment in his patients.

“David is a fantastic clinician, but what makes him exceptional is the empathy and compassion he demonstrates beyond the bedside,” she says. “This manifests itself in meaningful ways, such as reaching out with an email when he hasn’t heard from me in a while. And I know he does the same with his other patients.”

Mutch has similarly effusive words for Mannen Berges, who serves alongside him as a board member for the nonprofit group St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness (SLOCA). “Elizabeth is a person of boundless energy and a very astute businesswoman,” he says. “She adds tremendous value to our organization.”

Their efforts have helped SLOCA raise funds for research and patient support, giving under-resourced women access to much-needed services. The nonprofit also organizes educational sessions where patients share their experiences with WashU medical students.

The establishment of the David G. and Lynn Mutch Distinguished Professorship builds on this important work and contributes to the Berges Family Foundation’s goal of making St. Louis a great place to live, work, and invest, Berges says. He started the foundation in 2013 with his late wife, Cathy, a prominent philanthropist.

Advancing the St. Louis community has been a guiding principle of Berges’ career. He spent nearly 30 years at St. Louis-based Emerson Electric, ultimately serving as the company’s vice chair and president, before joining private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice as operating partner in 2006.

“Of course Elizabeth is here today as my supportive wife because of David Mutch, so I am thrilled to honor him in this way,” Berges says. “But my secondary motive for creating the professorship is to make sure St. Louis continues to attract the best and brightest companies and leaders. Having world-class health-care research, medical education, and clinicians is a step toward that goal.”

For Mannen Berges, the professorship represents a way to acknowledge and extend Mutch’s accomplishments. In addition to treating thousands of patients during his 35 years as a faculty member at Washington University School of Medicine, he has received significant research grants, helped expand access to clinical trials, and published more than 430 scientific papers.

“Throughout his career as an esteemed physician-scientist, he essentially has had two intense, highly specialized careers,” she says. “This professorship will help others follow in his footsteps and continue improving cancer research and care.”