Originally published in UTEP Magazine, Winter 2015
By Daniel Perez
Julian and Elayne Bernat were two El Paso transplants who were passionate about The University of Texas at El Paso because they were raised to value education.
The couple moved to El Paso in 1944 and began a tradition of community service that encompassed a wide range of worthwhile causes.
Julian Bernat died Sept. 23, 2014, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 97. His wife passed away in 2008 at the age of 91. The couple’s legacy of giving remains an inspiration in the El Paso community.
Julian Bernat was a lawyer, community leader and devoted friend to UTEP for the better part of 70 years. Together with Elayne, he generously shared his time and resources to benefit the campus and its students through his involvement on committees, his family’s numerous endowments and scholarships, and his cheering at UTEP athletic events. Bernat retired in 2011 and moved to Denver before settling in Cambridge in the fall of 2014.
“(My father) wanted to leave the world a better place and saw education as the major means to that end,” said Andrew Bernat, Ph.D., the youngest of the Bernat’s three children. He is a former chair and professor of computer science at UTEP.
Julian Bernat served 40 years on UTEP’s Development Board as a member and chair, served on the University’s first major fundraising campaign – the Legacy Campaign – and chaired the campaign’s Planned Giving Committee. In 2000, UTEP honored him with the Gran Paseño Award, one of the highest honors bestowed upon friends of the University.
Marc Bernat, a retired lawyer living in Austin, said his father’s lifelong love of sports drew him to UTEP athletics. His parents were among the fans who traveled to Maryland to see the Miners win the 1966 NCAA basketball championship game, which was historic because the team used an all African-American starting lineup for the first time in championship history.
As time went on, Julian Bernat learned more about the needs of the institution and its students. He enjoyed reading the thank-you notes from those who earned one of his family’s scholarships.
Marilyn Aleman, a senior multimedia journalism student and recipient of the Elayne and Julian Bernat Endowed Presidential Scholarship, said she used the Bernats’ generosity to push herself to academic success.
“The opportunities I’ve had are because of (them),” she said.
UTEP President Diana Natalicio lauded the Bernats for their all-encompassing support of the University.
“We will be forever indebted to Julian and his late wife, Elayne, for their generous commitment of time, wisdom, financial resources, and unflagging devotion to UTEP and our students,” she said.
The Bernats are survived by their daughter, Juli Furgeson, Ph.D., a retired clinical psychologist, their two sons, seven grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and other extended family members.