Engineering Alumnus Leonard Berenfield Pledges $1.5 Million to Department of Bioengineering

Issue Date: 
May 17, 2010

The University of Pittsburgh has received a $1.5 million pledge from Leonard Berenfield (ENGR ’64) to establish The Berenfield Family Engineering Legacy Fund for Bioengineering in the John A. Swanson School of Engineering.

Berenfield’s gift will support the University’s research efforts in the areas of pediatric cardiac surgery and cardiopulmonary regenerative medicine, fields in which the Department of Bioengineering has earned national recognition for research excellence. Berenfield, whose son and grandson were born with heart defects that required surgery, is an avid supporter of pediatric cardiovascular research and wishes to see continued advancements in technology and medicine in this field.

“As one of the oldest engineering schools in the nation, Pitt’s Swanson School has a long tradition of producing advanced research and is one of the nation’s leaders in bioengineering research,” said Gerald D. Holder, the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt. “Commitments like Len’s are invaluable in lifting our academic reputation and positioning us even further as a leading national engineering school.”

“Under the leadership of Dr. Harvey Borovetz, chair and Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering at Pitt, a true partnership has developed over the past several years between the Swanson School and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh,” notes Peter Wearden, Pitt assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery and director of Mechanical Circulatory Support at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “Mr. Berenfield’s gift will serve to grow this relationship even further. Because of the experiences of his family, Len, in the most personal of ways, shares our passion to find transformative solutions for children with congenital heart disease. We are very grateful that Mr. Berenfield has chosen to join our team. His generous gift will enhance our ability to make a significant difference in the lives of these children and their families.”

According to Borovetz, who also is the Robert L. Hardesty Professor in the Pitt School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, the gift will help the Swanson School and its Department of Bioengineering support, retain, and recruit outstanding graduate student researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and prominent faculty members, all of whom will help further strengthen Pitt’s position as a leading bioengineering research institution. The opportunity to collaborate across disciplines promotes translation of the research from the laboratory to the clinic, and, ultimately, to Wearden’s very special patients.

Through his earlier investments in Pitt’s Building Our Future Together Campaign, Berenfield, a Pittsburgh native, created the Leonard H. Berenfield Graduate Fellowship in Bioengineering. This commitment endowed a fellowship for bioengineering graduate students who focus their research in the area of pediatric cardiac surgery and cardiopulmonary regenerative medicine.

Berenfield serves as president and chief executive officer of Berenfield Containers Inc. Headquartered in Mason, Ohio, with locations in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arkansas, Berenfield Containers manufactures steel and fiber shipping containers that range in size from six to 77 gallons.

Prior to joining his family’s business, Berenfield worked for Westinghouse at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory as a mechanical engineer. He was responsible for designing the part of the container that stored the fuel rods.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Building Our Future Together capital campaign is the most successful fundraising campaign in the history of both Pitt and Southwestern Pennsylvania. To date, the campaign has raised more than $1.46 billion.