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angle-left Final Howard J. Berman Prize of $132,000 awarded to Jewish Family Service of Rochester and the Pencils and Paper program

Final Howard J. Berman Prize of $132,000 awarded to Jewish Family Service of Rochester and the Pencils and Paper program

For Immediate Release:  2018-08-02

Contact:  Philip Puchalski, (585) 238-4367 or Jim Redmond, (585) 238-4579

The last prize will be the biggest prize. 

The legacy of a CEO who used to take time each week to read to city school children will now be honored through an endowment named in his honor that will make sure teachers in high poverty schools have access to free school supplies.

When Howard Berman retired in 2003 as CEO of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and The Lifetime Healthcare Companies, his friends, colleagues and admirers committed more than $200,000 to establish a fund to finance the Howard J. Berman Prize in his honor.

The prize was created to recognize community-based, nonprofit organizations that embody Berman’s commitment to improving the health and lives of people who are at-risk across upstate New York. Since the inception of the prize, 13 recipients have each received a $10,000 cash award and a statue handcrafted by Rochester-based sculptor Leonard Urso. 

“After more than a decade of providing grassroots organizations with modest cash awards, the Berman Prize Selection Committee unanimously decided to raise the profile and impact of the prize by selecting a recipient to receive one final and substantial award to secure the organization’s work well into the future,” said Sandy Parker, chair of the Selection Committee. 

“I am pleased to announce that the full remaining balance of the Berman Prize Fund, totaling $132,000, is being awarded to Pencils and Paper, a program administered by Jewish Family Service of Rochester,” Parker said.

The mission of Pencils and Paper is to “serve the educational and creative needs of children in the Greater Rochester Area by providing free school supplies to teachers at high poverty schools.” 

Pencils and Paper is supported by donations from local businesses and foundations and a wide range of local volunteers. 

“The impact that education can have on the health and well-being of young children, especially those facing poverty, can be profound,” Parker said.  “Howard’s late wife Marilyn was committed to supporting the educational needs of at-risk children.  So in essence, this prize honors Marilyn’s passion and commitment as well as Howard’s.  The Selection Committee unanimously agreed that Pencils and Paper truly captures the spirit and intent of the prize and is the ideal organization to receive the final award.”

“Howard’s involvement and caring and Marilyn’s inspiration have made the dream of providing children in need with basic school supplies a reality,” said Howard Grossman, Pencils and Paper program coordinator.  “This generous and transformational gift will establish an endowment to ensure the viability of this effort for years to come.”

The Howard J. Berman Prize had been administered as a donor-advised fund through the United Way of Greater Rochester.  This final award transfers the full balance to Jewish Family Service of Rochester as an endowment fund for the Papers and Pencils program.

The Berman Prize Committee is chaired by Parker, former president and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance. Other committee members include:

  • William Clark, president and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester
  • Andrew Doniger, M.D., former director of the Monroe County Health Department
  • Joseph Kurnath, M.D., former board chairman of The Lifetime Healthcare Companies
  • Michael Miller, an attorney with the Chamberlain, D’Amanda law firm
  • Robert Thompson, former VP of Community Health Engagement for Excellus BCBS
  • Fran Weisberg, former president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Rochester


Through the years, the Howard J. Berman Prize has been awarded to a variety of grassroots organizations across upstate New York communities.  Past recipients of the Berman Prize are:

  • Gerald Place (Buffalo)
  • The Partnership for Ontario County (Canandaigua)
  • Mercy Community Services (Rochester)
  • Cancer Wellness Connections (Rochester)
  • St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy (Buffalo)
  • Amaus Health Services (Syracuse)
  • HealthFriends, Inc. (Utica)
  • Massena Free Clinic for Adults (Massena)
  • Brown Square Health Center (Rochester) 
  • St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center (Rochester)
  • Community Link (Plattsburgh)
  • The Center for Youth (Rochester)
  • Primary Care Outreach Program (Rochester)


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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit