The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Howard Berg remembers a particular day in high school as hall monitor when he asked a towering upper-classmen if he could see his hall pass. The next thing he knew, the student pulled a switchblade from his left pocket and held it against Berg’s throat.

Berg said his struggles throughout high school and middle school were a scary time in his life.

“I found comfort through reading books,” he said.

Berg said his passion for reading and learning new things became his life’s ambition. In 1990, Berg was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for reading more than 25,000 words a minute and writing more than 100 words a minute. Today, Berg is known as the fastest reader in the world.

Berg said he can read 80 pages a minute and has read more than 5,000 books. He feels that it is his obligation to share his gift.

“It’s like if you found the cure for cancer but never told anyone,” he said.

Berg and his business partner of seven years, former college professor Dr. Kuni Beasley, have been teaching people from all over the world how to learn. For 10 years the partners, who are based out of Dallas, have offered an online learning service for high school and middle school students at www.gatewayprep.com. Beasley compared himself with Steve Jobs, who creates the concepts.  Berg is like Bill Gates, he said, who makes the program faster and more efficient.

“We are two halves of one great brain,” Beasley said.

The partners are currently starting a program for the Dallas Hispanic community. Berg said his ultimate goal is to make rich people smarter, and wealthier, and he wants to use his proceeds to grant free education to the poor.

SMU Student Jason Jones was introduced to Berg one day and said he was inspired by the man’s intellect.

“He was beyond anything I expected,” Jones said. “A brilliant man.”

Growing up, Berg’s family lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a small apartment over Berg’s great-uncle’s drugstore. Then they moved to a small complex on Cozine Avenue.

Berg remembers when he was 6 years old and his birth father abandoned him. When he was 8, he was adopted by his new father, Leo Berg, and was able to overcome his family struggles, he said.

After attending six different elementary schools, Berg enrolled in Gershwin Middle School. In the late 1960s he went to Thomas Jefferson High School. It was a walking nightmare for Berg, but an experience he’ll never forget.

“Everyone looked like Fonzy and that’s what the girls wanted,” he said.

The gangs in the New York Bronx were cruel and violent. Berg walked one and a half miles in the snow to get to school.

Once at a bus stop, 12 gang members robbed Berg and a few others. They beat them with bats until every last dime had emptied their pockets, Berg said.

Berg began reading biographies of Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Galileo and Newton. Berg said the greatest philosophers in history became his role models. He loved that they were thinkers. They saw things that weren’t there before.

Berg has had more than 1200 radio/TV interviews, including Regis and Kelly, comedian Denis Leary, Dick Cavett and Howard Stern. He was also John Stewart’s first interview on Comedy Central.

Friend Elexis Rice said she admired Berg’s compassionate side and she raved over his ability to hold a conversation on virtually any topic.

“He is like a living Google,” said Rice.

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