Syracuse University Magazine


Ira ’82, Allie ’11, and Linda Berkowitz ’83 at an outing last summer.

Ira Berkowitz ’82

Keeping Orange Company

Ira Berkowitz has a theory he refers to as “the Two Degrees of Otto.” When meeting a new person, he can identify someone they know in common—who has some sort of connection to Syracuse University—within two moves at most. Orange pride runs deep for the Class of 1982 grad. Berkowitz met his now-wife, Linda ’83, when they were both students, during the Dance Marathon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The Berkowitzes’ daughter, Allie, graduated in 2011. Their son, Zach, is a member of the Class of 2014. For Zach’s bar mitzvah favors, the Berkowitz family drove to Syracuse and loaded the family car with 240 toasted honeybuns from Cosmos. On a related note, the family dog’s name is Cosmo. During walks with Cosmo, Berkowitz has gotten into the habit of always sporting Syracuse gear. “It’s a great conversation starter,” he says. 

For more than a decade, Berkowitz has been president of the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Northern New Jersey, one of the most active in the country. “We’ve just done a really, really good job of engaging our alumni and giving them a variety of events to cater to anyone,” Berkowitz says. “If we throw an event and only five people show up, but they’re five people who wouldn’t show up to another event, then we consider that successful.” One of the club’s most effective endeavors is a monthly business-to-business networking breakfast, to encourage alumni to do business together. It’s a model other alumni clubs are now following. In his role as president of Monarch Communications, a New Jersey-based graphic design and advertising agency, Berkowitz has found several opportunities to partner with fellow alumni. Even more meaningful than business partnerships are the wonderful friendships formed because of his involvement with SU. “Those friendships are really one of the main reasons I keep doing what I’m doing,” he says. 

It was May 2000 when Berkowitz first re-engaged with his alma mater—as an alumni admissions representative volunteering at high school college fairs in New Jersey. As he continued to become more involved, a friend noticed. “I don’t know what it is, but Syracuse alumni have some sort of a connection that no other school seems to have,” the friend commented. On that connection, Berkowitz says, “I have no idea what that is or why that is. It just is. It’s really special.” In California, where Allie works (at a job she learned about through SU in LA’s job board), it’s referred to as “the Orange mafia.” Berkowitz fondly recalls an experience with the “mafia” during a stroll across Santa Monica Boulevard—in Syracuse gear, of course—while visiting his daughter. More than 2,500 miles from campus, someone spotted his “Home Away from the Dome” Madison Square Garden T-shirt and yelled excitedly, “I LOVE THAT SHIRT! Where did you get it?” 

He recalls another Syracuse moment that played out during a skiing trip to Killington, Vermont. Berkowitz struck up a conversation with a group of teens from Orchard Park, New York, and asked if they knew another teen from that area named Ben. They nodded and, in disbelief, asked, “How do you know Ben?” Berkowitz’s response? “I’m the one who introduced his parents.” He’d done so at Syracuse University. 

And that…is the Ira Berkowitz Theory of the Two Degrees of Otto. —Kim Brown