Bertha Kalm had adventure in her blood. Independently and some 25 years apart, her father and maternal grandparents left their native Sweden in the late 19th century, crossing the Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. From New York, they continued westward—clear to California, where their parallel paths finally intersected.
Born in 1914, Kalm, ’36 Education, was raised amongst the trees and bees and blossoms of her family’s Southern California citrus ranch until she was old enough to go on a journey of her own. In 1933, she came to San Jose to earn a degree in education. She taught elementary school in the San Jose area for one year until the sudden death of her father brought her home. Back in Southern California, Kalm embarked on a successful 30-year career as a business educator—but she always made time for adventure.
First sailing across the Atlantic on the luxury ocean liner SS America in 1952, Kalm’s world travels ranged from researching her genealogy in Sweden to exploring regions as far flung as Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Greece. She trotted the globe to such an extent throughout her life that her occupation would be officially recorded for posterity as “educator and adventurer.” Yet it was her passion for education, her Swedish heritage and San Jose State—where she spent only three of her 99 years on this earth—that held the most important places in her heart.
Nearly two decades ago, Kalm endowed an SJSU scholarship to support graduate students who, like her, demonstrated “a desire to make a difference for humanity.” In 2013, she left the university a generous portion of her estate to further strengthen the endowment. With this final gift, Kalm has ensured that students may pursue graduate school and their own adventures in this mighty, vast world.
The Bertha Kalm Scholarship in the Office of Graduate Studies supports graduate students in any field of study who have a financial need and who “demonstrate a desire to make a difference for humanity.” Upon her death, Kalm gave $625,000 to her endowed scholarship and another $625,000 to the Connie L. Lurie College of Education.
“I found out that I was chosen for the Kalm Scholarship while I was working as a teaching assistant for the geology department’s field class, collecting samples in the sierra nevada. I climbed up a hill to get cell reception and was thrilled when I received the congratulatory text from my adviser! After a year here at SJSU, I am beginning to see that it is possible to pursue a career that I really love and work toward bettering my community.”
—Callie Sendek, ’15 MA Geology, 2014 Kalm Scholarship Recipient