OU professor Jeff Berry posthumously honored with fund benefitting students and rural communities

Fall 2020

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Maribeth and Jack Berry hold a plaque honoring current and future recipients of the Jeffrey L. Berry Memorial Scholarship, named for their late son and OU professor.

Maribeth and Jack Berry hold a plaque honoring current and future recipients of the Jeffrey L. Berry Memorial Scholarship, named for their late son and OU professor.

People in Oklahoma’s rural communities may one day have better access to the radiological services they need. And for that, they can thank four generations of the Berry-Miller family.

The Professor Jeffrey L. Berry Memorial Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships for students who are from a rural area or interested in serving a rural population to study in the University of Oklahoma College of Allied Health Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences.

The fund was first established by Jack and Maribeth Berry in 2014 as the Normah and John Miller Memorial Scholarship Fund to recognize Maribeth’s parents. It was repurposed in 2019 to honor their son, OU Associate Professor of Radiography Jeff Berry, who died unexpectedly in 2019.

Memorial gifts have been made by multiple donors. Jeff’s adult children, Ashleigh Vinson and Ian and Collin Berry, also are making a $10,000 gift in their father’s name.

“Jeff had a special place in his heart for his students,” said Jack Berry, a rural Colorado physician who earned his own degree from the OU College of Medicine in 1968.

“If we can help these young people graduate with less student debt, perhaps we can encourage them to consider working in a rural area,” he said.
Jack and Maribeth met as high school students. Maribeth’s parents, John and Normah Miller, owned Oklahoma City’s Miller X-ray Company for four decades. The company sold and serviced X-ray machines across the state.

“Their favorite clients were the small, rural clinics and hospitals,” Jack said. “The more isolated they were, the more John felt he was being of service.” Jack went to work for the company during his OU years and confirmed his love for rural life while taking a break one day outside an emergency room in Buffalo, Okla.

“Just outside the ER was a beautiful wheat field,” he said. “And I thought, ‘I could live and work in this environment for the rest of my life.’ ” Once Jack became a physician, the Berrys moved to Okarche, Okla., and eventually to rural Colorado.

Jeff returned to Oklahoma after graduating from high school to obtain a bachelor’s in animal science at Oklahoma State University. He later decided on a career change and earned a bachelor’s degree in radiography and a master’s degree in cell biology from Fort Hays State University. After working in rural hospitals in Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska, Jeff accepted a teaching position at Fort Hays State.

Jeff joined OU’s faculty in 2006 as director of the radiography program. “He followed in his grandparents’ footsteps and continued their work,” Maribeth said.

In addition to teaching and research, Jeff worked closely with the Oklahoma City Zoo to perform CT scans on animals and with OU’s Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, providing scans of fossils for paleontologists.

“He just loved that,” Maribeth said, “and he went all over Oklahoma to give talks about his work being an extension of radiography. He said that he was never going to move from Oklahoma because he wouldn’t have such an opportunity at another school. He loved OU.”

Jack said he hopes his family’s efforts will encourage other donors to consider what they might be able to do to help the next generation. “We aren’t millionaires,” he said, “but you don’t have to be to make a difference.”