Ten Questions: Elisabeth Bergan to co-chair gala


‘Twas a dark and stormy night when Elisabeth Bergan was born in Hungary, and it was another dark and stormy night in Budapest that brought she and her parents to the United States in 1957.

She was educated at Friends Schools in Philadelphia, and she graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. After graduation, she studied to be a Montessori teacher and later did graduate work in French literature at the University of Chicago.

Bergan is a volunteer active in community, cultural and charitable projects. She serves on the board of the Museum Trustee Association and is a vice president of Patrons of the Prado, whose mission is to support the arts and educational initiatives on the Prado in Balboa Park. She is co-chairing, with Anita Crider, the Patrons of the Prado gala this summer.

She has also served as president of the Scripps Hospital Auxiliary and chair of the Jewel Ball. Bergan was on the board of Mama’s Kitchen from 1994 to 2008 and co-chaired Mama’s Day for seven years. She was a trustee of the Mingei International Museum for several years and served as treasurer. She was a vice president of the San Diego Historical Society and chaired its Costume Council and also was a trustee of The Old Globe.

She is married to Dr. John Bergan, noted vascular surgeon, and they live in La Jolla with their bearded collie, Nikko.

What brought you to La Jolla?

My husband and I had visited La Jolla many times when, one day, it dawned on us that it is the perfect place to live--a seaside village with a great university, ideal climate and it’s 15 minutes from the airport.

What makes La Jolla special to you?

There is an immutable quality about it. You can still walk along the cliffs and down to Sunny Jim Cave and stand in the place that inspired L. Frank Baum to call it “the doorway to the fairylands bordering on Oz.” With a little imagination, you can still go back there.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

I would bring back all the bookstores and ice cream shops we had in the 1970s--and the Cove Theater, Jurgenson’s and I. Magnin.

Who or what inspires you?

People of vision and courage with a strong moral compass who endure the distance no matter the odds, obstacles or cost: George Washington and Rosa Parks.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Dave Hickey, the art critic; Buster Keaton; T. S. Eliot; Groucho Marx; Jacques Henri Lartigue, the photographer; James Murray, the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary; Edith Wharton; Henry James; and Bill Blass. I’m not sure what they would talk about, but it would be a great exchange.

What are you currently reading?

“The Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius. The advice of a clear-thinking Roman emperor is especially useful today even after 2,000 years. “Finnegans Wake”--I started it in 1970.

What is your most prized possession?

Can health be counted as a possession?

What do you do for fun?

Fly far away, say, to Paris for a long weekend.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

Maintaining close friendships for many years, including and perhaps most especially with my husband and family.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up!”