The Horatio Alger Association names 11 outstanding individuals, each of whom has overcome adversity to achieve professional and personal success, to its Member Class of 2024 

William Berkley, Founder and Executive Chairman of  W.R. Berkley Corporation, to Receive 2024 Horatio Alger Award  

The Horatio Alger Association names 11 outstanding individuals, each of whom has overcome adversity to achieve professional and personal success, to its Member Class of 2024 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 6, 2024) – Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education, today announced that William R. Berkley, founder and executive chairman of W.R. Berkley Corporation,has been selected for membership in this prestigious organization. Mr. Berkley joins 10 other exceptional business, civic and cultural leaders from across North America in receiving 2024 honors. For more than 75 years, the Horatio Alger Award has been annually bestowed upon esteemed individuals who have succeeded despite facing adversities, and who have remained committed to higher education and charitable efforts in their communities.  

Mr. Berkley grew up in northern New Jersey in a middle-class family. His father’s career began with him owning vending machines that sold nickel candy, followed by a job with a confection manufacturer. At 11, Mr. Berkley experienced a life-altering event when his father lost his life in a plane crash, bringing his childhood to a halt. To make additional money, with the support and urging of his mother, Mr. Berkley began mowing lawns and soon learned to invest his earnings in the stock market. Eager to succeed, Mr. Berkley caught the break he needed when he was awarded a full scholarship to New York University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1966. To further his education, he went on to receive his MBA from Harvard Business School while simultaneously running a $2 million investment partnership out of his apartment with a fellow classmate. While at Harvard, Mr. Berkley founded W.R. Berkley Corporation with only $5,000 in start-up cash, launching his career in the investment business which subsequently evolved into an insurance company. In 1973, W.R. Berkley Corporation went public and Mr. Berkley solidified 23.8% ownership of the company. Today, the company operates in 60 countries and reported $12.1 billion in total revenues in 2023, underscoring the tremendous progress it has made since its founding in 1967.   

“As a young child, William Berkley overcame great emotional turmoil after the passing of his father. His determination to overcome immense challenges has played a critical role in the incredible success he has experienced throughout his life,” said Terrence J. Giroux, executive director, Horatio Alger Association. “I know his story will comfort and inspire Horatio Alger Scholars who have faced similar hardships, serving as proof that with perseverance and passion, any dream is attainable.”   

Mr. Berkley never forgot the full scholarship he received to attend New York University. Determined to pay it forward, Mr. Berkley made a commitment to support higher education through philanthropic endeavors and donations early in his career. In 2013, he donated $10 million to New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, followed by a $50 million donation to the school in 2021 which was made in conjunction with his wife, Marjorie. He served as Chairman of the Board of New York University from 2014 – 2023, and received the Waldo Haskins Award from the Stern School of Business in 2006. With his wife, Mr. Berkley has also donated to the New York University Langone Medical Center, the American Antiquarian Society, Greenwich Hospital, the National Parks Conservation Association, Achievement First Charter Schools, the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich and more. His multi-million-dollar gift to Georgetown University established the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. In 2021, Mr. Berkley was awarded the Medallion for Entrepreneurship by Beta Gamma Sigma, which honors outstanding individuals who combine innovative business achievements with service to humanity.  

“I understand the lifechanging impact of a college scholarship,” said Mr. Berkley. “It’s why I feel so passionately about giving students the same opportunity to pursue their dreams through higher education. I am honored to join the Horatio Alger Association and my fellow Members in its mission to support Scholars as they strive to reach their fullest potential without worrying about the financial burden of student loan debt.”  

2024 marks the 40th year that the Association has awarded annual need-based scholarships to high school students who have displayed dedication to pursuing higher education despite significant obstacles throughout their lives.  The Association, which aims to preserve and protect the American Dream for future generations, also seeks to educate young people about the endless opportunities available by the free-enterprise system through commitment, honesty, and diligence. The scholarships are made possible thanks to the generosity of Horatio Alger Members, who will have collectively provided more than $245 million to over 35,000 students. 

“It is our utmost honor to present the Horatio Alger Award to these 11 outstanding leaders who have exemplified perseverance, passion and a deep appreciation for higher education,” said James F. Dicke II, chairman, Horatio Alger Association and 2015 Horatio Alger Award recipient. “These influential leaders not only spearhead their own businesses, but they give generously to causes, organizations and communities in need. Our 2024 awardees embody the Association’s mission and are proof that the American Dream is within reach for anyone who seeks it.” 

Mr. Berkley and the Member Class of 2024 will be formally inducted into the Association on April 4-6, 2024, during the Association’s annual Horatio Alger Award Induction Ceremonies in Washington, D.C. The three-day event is an annual ceremony to honor both the achievements of Members and National Scholars, who will have multiple opportunities to meet, interact and exchange stories of perseverance.  


For more information about Horatio Alger Association and its Member Class of 2024, please visit www.horatioalger.organdfollow the organization on Facebook,  X, LinkedIn and Instagram.  




About Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans:  

Founded in 1947, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc. is dedicated to the simple but powerful belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles. The Association honors the achievements of outstanding leaders who have accomplished remarkable successes in spite of adversity by bestowing upon them the Horatio Alger Award and inducting them as lifetime Members. Horatio Alger Members support promising young people with the resources and confidence needed to overcome adversity in pursuit of their dreams through higher education. Through the generosity of its Members and friends, in 2023, the Association awarded more than $18 million in undergraduate and graduate need-based scholarships to 1,800 students across the United States and Canada, and provided college support and mentoring services to its Scholars. Over the past 40 years, more than $245 million has been awarded in undergraduate, graduate, military veteran and career and technical education scholarships to more than 35,000 deserving students. For more information, please visit