If you're a billionaire interesting in having a college building named in your honor, you may want to give Melissa Berman a call. As the president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Berman helps some of the world's richest people direct their money to worthy causes.
After earning a PhD—in Old Norse, of all things—and working at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Miami native Berman joined the business networking group the Conference Board in 1985. She spent the next decade and a half rising through the ranks, becoming head of the organization's research and program development operations. In early 2001, Berman decamped to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, just after it had been spun off as a stand-alone venture from Rockefeller Financial Services. It's now her job to help separate wealthy folks from their excess cash and transform mere donors into full-fledged philanthropists.
In 2006, Berman helped funnel some $150 million to various non-profit organizations on behalf of some 135 clients. The beneficiaries vary widely: She helped a philanthropist establish a charity for kids at risk of becoming child soldiers, and she directed millions to set up a nursing education program on behalf of Donald Jonas. Berman doesn't just process donations, though; she occasionally vets them as well. These days she's planning a new microfinance initiative, and she's working with Wharton Business School to offer a family wealth management program at the university.
Berman is married to Richard Klotz, a mathematician; the couple and their two children, Danny and Rachel, live on West 81st Street.