The Talk on Tenth

Full-Court Press: Bergerson ('70) Reflects on Time, Mentors at Marquette
Marquette's Lone Judge Recalls Lessons from Sister SiobhanJohn Tracy
Inside his chambers, judge Michael Bergerson ('70) can roll his chair toward a window and point to the precise location where he saw Robert Kennedy some 50 years ago. 

Less than two years later, Bergerson would go on to graduate from Marquette and Kennedy would be assassinated inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the latest chapter in a generation-long tragedy centered around the Kennedy family.

"Nothing can compare to the time between 1968 and 1972. We were in the midst of the Vietnam War. There were the shootings at Kent State, the MLK assassination, Bobby Kennedy's assassination, riots, student protests. If we survived that chaotic time, we can get through anything," Bergerson said confidently.

Fortunately, the Bergerson family has enjoyed a much rosier destiny than the Kennedys.

Bergerson's five children all lead successful lives. His three sons graduated from Marquette: Michael ('00), Brendan ('02), and Pat ('04).

Michael has followed in his father's professional footsteps and is a partner at Barnes & Thornburg. Brendan, a tall lefty who went on to pitch at West Virginia before competing on Ireland's National Baseball Team, got his feet wet on Wall Street as an oil trader and now serves on the Chicago Board of Trade. Pat trades currencies for Bank of America in New York.

"Two of them are gamblers," he quipped with a smile and a cackle. 


It probably goes without saying, but there are few places within LaPorte County with less welcoming environments than the LaPorte County Superior Court. 

But once one makes his way through the metal detector, past the armed guards, and into Bergerson's chambers, there are Marquette artifacts throughout. On his desk rests a letter opener gifted to him by Sister Siobahn. 

"She was a great business and typing teacher," Bergerson recalls. "We had a great relationship and it meant a lot when she gave this to me and said that one day I would have important mail to open."

On the north wall of his office sits a basket of baseballs, most of which are relics of his son Brendan's prep career. A game ball of a no-hitter he tossed against LaCrosse. Another from when the southpaw struck out 20 Argos batters in one seven-inning game. 

The only known alumnus to serve as a judge in Marquette's 133-year history examined the baseballs and recalled his own career on the diamond before letting out another infectious cackle.

"If I could've hit a curveball, I could've been somebody," Bergerson said.


The tangible keepsakes which Bergerson possess pale in comparison to the intangible lessons he learned on 10th Street. 

"Marquette was great in instilling a sense that you need to get involved in your school and your community," he said.

As a student, Bergerson wore many hats. He was the president of National Honor Society, vice president of student council, and junior class president. He was a star on the golf course and played basketball. He kickstarted and authored a student-led underground newspaper with a "small cadre of good friends who took strong positions."

He credits the many sisters who were instrumental in his development - Sister Angelina who taught math, Sister Teresa who was a rock-solid mentor, Margo Hale, whose Spanish lessons he still recites to her when they cross paths in the grocery store.

But the one person who made the most lasting impact on Bergerson was a man he never spent time with inside a formal classroom.

"(Former head boys basketball coach) John Tracy was the best coach I've ever had. The way he was able to mold kids and strategize from the bench was incredible. I still credit him today. He was an excellent teacher of the game and I've never forgotten the lessons he taught me," Bergerson said.

He carried those lessons with him to John Carroll University where the former Blazer continued his basketball and golf careers. He qualified for the Indy Amateur and sports a 3.3 handicap today.

If he hadn't chosen to spend his days in a courtroom, where would Michael Bergerson be?

"I'd probably be selling hot dogs," he cracked.

His father started B&K Root Beer, a regional drive-in chain that at one point boasted over 200 locations across Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. He was also co-owner of the Michigan City White Caps, a gig that provided young Michael some unforgettable experiences.

"We'd have the players over for dinner - Juan Marichal, Matty Alou, Manny Mota, Jesus Alou all at our kitchen table. They could pull good-natured pranks with the best of 'em, but they were kind. They always remembered my dad," Bergerson remarked.

Next summer, Bergerson and the Class of 1970 will celebrate their 50th reunion. He contends that a class of 70 or so students enabled him to become more well-rounded.

"Marquette gave me the opportunity to develop and find out what I really wanted to do. I'm always grateful because of the size and the mentors who encouraged me."

As he readied for an afternoon hearing, Bergerson looked out the window near the spot where Bobby Kennedy addressed the immense crowd in 1968. 

He donned his robe and issued one last chuckle before exiting his chambers. 

"I can still hear the voices of those nuns in my head."