The Passing of a Giant   

03.06.2015 | Post by Tony Kern

This last week marked the passing of one of aviation’s greatest minds, Dr. Jerry Berlin. To me Jerry was both a friend and a mentor, and we shared the stage on many occasions around the world. He would always take the time to listen and openly and honestly critique my work, and is in fact, a large part of what I still do and have become. I suspect I am only one of many whom he impacted in his own subtle influential way.

For those who never had the opportunity to meet him, Jerry was both a consulting psychologist and an experienced pilot. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1961. Since then, he has spent much of his career in general, commercial, and military aviation. Unlike many Ph.D.’s, Dr. Berlin was operationally oriented – and applied psychologist in the truest sense of the word. His trademark approach was to evoke emotion from his audience, understanding that for his message to stick, he had to make it real for those who were listening to a seemingly never ending line of conference speakers. He used role playing to put audiences inside scenarios, and to this day I will never forget his “post flight briefs from heaven” routine that would often bring the audience to tears. “Now,” he would say, “you are ready to learn.”

Jerry spent the decade of the seventies in Israel where he taught at the Univ. of Haifa and served as a full time officer in the Israel Air Force. His last position there was as Chief of Training Research and Development with the rank of Lt. Col. From 1979 through 1982, he served as Director of the Aviation Research Center at Embry-Riddle University, and was the senior author of a three-volume study on pilot judgment training. In 1985, Dr. Berlin was appointed a member of a Federal Task Force on Counter-Terrorism, and, the following year, developed the first automated terrorist screening profile, the essentials of which are still in use.

In recent years, Dr. Berlin was less visible on stage but always remained engaged with his mission to make people better. In this way, he reminds me of so many greats throughout history that remained humble but engaged in their life’s mission until the end. Benjamin Franklin was 81 years old by the time the 1787 Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia. As the oldest delegate, he was also among the most respected. Franklin said on the last day of the four-month meeting, “I sacrifice to the public good.” So did you Jerry. Your vision continues through those of us you influenced and you will be dearly missed by us all.

Tony Kern, Ed.D.
CEO, Convergent Performance


Leave your memories of  Dr. Jerry Berlin below.


3 Responses

  1. Jerry did 15 years of work with the NH National Guard. I first met him doing training for aircrews and I could see the parallels between cockpits and leadership teams. When I became Commander of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, Jerry conducted some truly ground breaking work for us on Human Interactions. He was a personal mentor to me and a true friend. He is sorely missed.
    - Maj Gen (retired) Kenneth Clark
  2. The first time I met Jerry was during my interviewing process for Learjet. We had a great conversation; he was a very humble and easy guy to talk with. During his time as a Safety Standdown speaker, he always had the auditorium's attention and got his teaching points across. He will be truly missed.
    - Jeff Triphahn, Bombardier Business Aircraft Demonstration Pilot
  3. I too had the pleasure of working with Dr. Berlin and considered him a good friend. Jerry provided me with guidance and encouragement throughout the many years I knew him. He is one of a kind and will be truly missed by myself as well as many others.
    - Janet Schiebelhut

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