Pete Berkowitz, 84, died on October 8, 2018, three months after being diagnosed with metastatic anaplastic thyroid cancer, a rare and aggressive disease.
Pete’s heartbroken survivors include his wife Charlotte Berkowitz; daughters Linda Nolte-Sering and her husband, Chris Sering, Barbara Dolney and her husband Mark Dolney and Cindy Fuller; grandchildren Joshua Dolney, Miles Dolney, Haley Fuller, Max Chernow and Allyson Chernow; brothers and sisters-in-law Bernie and Barbara Berkowitz, Gig and Dee Berkowitz, David and Judy Berkowitz and a sister, Irene Berkowitz.
Pete was born in Riverside, New Jersey, to Miriam and Max Berkowitz. Upon graduation from high school, Pete left New Jersey to attend Southern Methodist University, where he earned multiple master’s degrees in engineering. He never returned to the Northeast. His motto became, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.”
In 1957, Pete enlisted in the United States Army and worked for two years in special weapons development. Later, he worked for the manned space program at NASA and helped to develop the mission control room. In 1982, having left NASA for private industry, Pete founded his own process controls company, Continental Controls, Inc. Nearly two decades later, Pete sold Continental Controls to GE, and three years later he retired. He soon became an adviser to the National Science Foundation and gave recommendations for the allocation of $220 million in grant and scholarship funds.
Pete also worked as a volunteer for ESCH (Executive Service Corps of Houston), using his business acumen to help non-profit agencies succeed at their missions. In 2003, he became a member of the board of directors of Holocaust Museum Houston. There his passion was ignited for striving for social justice through education.
In 2005, Pete became chair of Holocaust Museum Houston, where he developed museum programs, increased the diversity of the board of directors and helped the museum acquire an authentic World War II era German rail car and a Danish rescue boat. In 2009, he was asked by then-governor Rick Perry to serve as chair of the newly established Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. During his tenure as chair, he oversaw the continuous growth of the Commission’s educational programming initiatives. He worked for inclusion of the Holocaust in American History High School textbooks, emphasizing the role of American soldiers in liberating the infamous Nazi concentration camps. Since concluding his term in 2016, Pete served as chair of the Friends of the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commision.
As much as he loved to teach, Pete loved to learn. With his wife Charlotte, he was an avid tourist. His dedication to Holocaust and Genocide education was matched by his love for family, especially his grandchildren to whom he dedicated his vision and his work.
Donations in memory of Pete may be made to The Peter Berkowitz Fellowship for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (https://friendsofthgc.org), Houston Hospice, Congregation Emanu El, Holocaust Museum Houston, or the donor’s charity of choice.