James BerkJames Berk

Educator/Business Executive

California State University, Northridge

California State University, Northridge alumnus James Berk is an outstanding educator and advocate for the arts, preeminent business executive and unique contributor to the nation's public discourse.

Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, Mr. Berk grew up and attended public schools in the San Fernando Valley, graduating from California State University, Northridge in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in music.

Mr. Berk brought his passion for music education to Carson High School where he reopened its music department. He next transferred to Alexander Hamilton High School and created its acclaimed Academy of Music, the largest comprehensive performing arts magnet in the western United States. He became principal of the Alexander Hamilton High Schools Complex in 1990 - the youngest principal in the history of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In 1992, Mr. Berk started his business career as the founding executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Foundation. In 1996 he became CEO of Hard Rock Cafe International, a global entertainment and leisure company; in 1999, CEO of Fairfield Communities, Inc., one of America's largest independent vacation ownership and resort companies; and, in 2004, CEO of Gryphon Colleges Corporation, an academic for-profit company providing training in high-demand career specialties.

In 2006, Mr. Berk combined his talents as teacher, business leader and entertainment executive to become CEO of Participant Media, where he advances its mission to create entertainment that inspires and compels social change. Under Mr. Berk's leadership, Participant Media has offered an extraordinary body of films that have examined such critical matters as global warming, nutrition, education, immigration, mental health, homelessness, civil liberties and international conflict.

Since being recognized in 2007 as a Distinguished Alumnus of California State University, Northridge, Mr. Berk has become deeply invested in the future of this university. His commitment to higher education and social justice is further exemplified by his breadth of service to other valued local and global institutions.

In recognition of his professional and civic accomplishments as an educator and business and community leader, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Northridge are proud to confer upon James Berk the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.