David Bernstein:  Lifelong Learner, Lifelong Commitment

Like many Johns Hopkins students, David Bernstein pores over reading assignments and a new course syllabus at a semester's start, looking forward to professors' insight and class discussions.

"At 75, it keeps me fresh," says Bernstein, who—more than 50 years after he graduated from Johns Hopkins University —is now a student at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, taking courses on U.S. foreign policy, international relations, and Middle East studies.

His return to the classroom is a testament to his intellectual curiosity and appreciation for the breadth of his alma mater's reach. A trustee emeritus of both the university and Johns Hopkins Medicine, Bernstein sits on the SAIS Advisory Council and the Carey Business School Board of Overseers, and is founding chair of the Advisory Council for the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. For decades he has been an ardent Johns Hopkins supporter, helping fund efforts including scholarships, construction, and the men's lacrosse team, while making consistent annual gifts and contributions to special initiatives. Most recently, he revised his estate plans to direct a bequest that will support a wide range of needs at Johns Hopkins.

"As I got older, I saw how Johns Hopkins impacted the world in so many ways, in so many places," Bernstein says. "I have a lot of pride that the school I went to is such a player on the world scene and I want to be a part of that. And it always comes back to Baltimore."

Bernstein's interest in global politics was sparked as a teenager as he swept floors for a Baltimore-based company that supplied duty-free items to voyaging ships. "I decided then that I wanted to end up in a career that involved travel, learning a language, and interacting with international folks," Bernstein says.

After graduating from the Krieger School in 1957 and completing a brief stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to the company where he worked in his teens, Samuel Meisel and Company, Inc.

Bernstein became president in 1966 and transformed the company into Duty Free International, which went public under his chairmanship in 1987. In 1992, when Bernstein retired, the company was the leading operator of duty-free stores along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico and in international airports. Today Bernstein is a consultant and is involved with the International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores, the industry organization he presided over for 18 years.

Bernstein reconnected with the university in the 1980s when Morris W. Offit, a fellow 1957 alumnus, suggested he take note of the institution's work in Baltimore and around the world. Understanding the mission of Johns Hopkins' nine schools provided opportunities for Bernstein to get involved while developing personal and professional interests.

In recent years, he has taken a keen interest in Johns Hopkins International, an entity that promotes the Johns Hopkins Medicine mission around the globe. Bernstein is also committed to the university's work to strengthen its relationships locally, one of University President Ronald J. Daniels' major initiatives. Bernstein's wife, Pat, founded Stocks in the Future, a non-profit affiliate program of the university that teaches local middle-school students about investing while giving them extra incentive to do well in school. Students earn money for good performance that they invest through the program and, when they graduate from high school, can cash out the accumulated dividends.

"David's support, seen in so many ways across our institution and now anchored with his bequest commitment, is tremendous," says Daniels. "It is so uplifting to be around someone whose heart beats black and gold and whose mind is so open and engaged by ideas."

Making the decision to direct a bequest to Johns Hopkins was easy, Bernstein says: "Knowing what you've given can make the world a better place through Johns Hopkins' presence—that is very satisfying."

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