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To Berkeley, global was the only way to go

Frederick Berkeley III led a small Batavia-based company into markets in Latin America and Asia. He didn’t create Graham Corp. and wasn’t its most recent leader, but he made a great impact by taking the company global while keeping jobs local.
 
Born in 1929, Berkeley joined Graham in the early 1950s and worked alongside his father, Frederick Berkeley II. To distinguish between the Fredericks, the younger went by "Duncan," his middle name, at the company and around Batavia. But in the business world and in Rochester he used his given name.
 
Alvaro Cadena, who worked closely with Berkeley and was chosen to succeed him, says this led to some confusion.
 
"I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that again. There are people who go by two different names, but not in one city Fred and in another city Duncan," he says.
 
Berkeley’s father and Harold Graham founded Graham Corp. in 1941. It designed and manufactured heaters, steam ejector equipment and surface condensers. The younger Berkeley took over the company when his father passed away in 1962.
 
As a leader, he was a man with genuine vision. He found ways not only to keep Graham afloat but to expand it.
 
"The markets we were in were coming to an end in this country because everything was already being done in the 1970s," Cadena explains. "He realized that if the company was going to survive, we would have to move to global markets."
 
Though this was no small feat for a small firm in a small city, Berkeley was committed and convinced that selling products abroad was the right course of action. He started in Europe but had mixed success in the United Kingdom and other countries. Cadena says that as in the United States, infrastructure in Europe was already developed.
 
Undeterred, Berkeley turned to the Middle East, the Far East and Latin America, buying companies in the industry in various countries. Though the ventures were not always successful, he became known for his ability to manage crisis.
 
Berkeley broadened Graham’s scope by diversifying product offerings. It was he who took the company into the power industry; under his guidance, Graham began providing equipment for cogeneration and geothermal power plants.
 
Berkeley wanted Graham to offer the best product in the business and to do so efficiently, Cadena says. He wanted to provide the highest quality even if it meant not offering the least expensive option. And he would waste no energy along the way.
 
To maximize efficiency, he put money into building facilities for research and development. Graham was way ahead of its time, and the company continues to benefit from this move, Cadena says.
 
"Because of that, today the company is positioned worldwide as No. 1 in the areas of equipment that we produce, so he was a very significant decision-maker," Cadena says.
 
He adds that besides being an inspired thinker and leader, Berkeley also was a wonderful person.
 
"He was very caring, very thoughtful, very low-key. He was a person who put people first."
 
When he had an issue to deal with in the company, Berkeley dealt with it. But if he had to reprimand an employee, he didn’t punish, instead choosing correction and instruction.
 
"He treated employees the way he wanted to be treated," Cadena recalls.
 
He himself benefited from this management style. In 1989, Berkeley used company funds to send Cadena to Stanford University for a six-week business management course. Cadena came back to the company with new ideas that Berkeley happily implemented.
 
Berkeley was committed both to the success of the company and to Graham customers and employees, Cadena says.
 
Cadena, who says Berkeley chose him as his successor despite his relative lack of experience, wonders aloud, "How did this man have this vision?"
 
Berkeley was also very involved in the communities of Rochester and Batavia as a director of the Industrial Management Council of Rochester and the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce, which merged in 2003 to form the Rochester Business Alliance. He also supported both Geva Theatre Center and the Memorial Art Gallery.
 
He mentored young company leaders through the Young Presidents Organization and spoke frequently to students at Batavia High School.
 
Perhaps his greatest community contribution, though, was to the United Way in Batavia. Cadena recalls that Berkeley set up a program at Graham to match employee donations, which could be taken directly from their paychecks.
 
"I would say 60 or 70 percent of employees contributed to the United Way," he estimates.
 
When Berkeley was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, he was preparing Cadena to succeed him. He remained involved for another year.
 
"When he got ill and was having treatment, he insisted that he wanted to continue coming into the office," Cadena says, "so I would pick him up at his home and make the 45-minute drive to Batavia."
 
During those drives, Cadena got to know Berkeley very well. He believes Berkeley, who passed away in April 1998, would be proud of how the company has turned out.
 
"As for his legacy, he wanted the company values to continue from generation to generation of leaders," Cadena says. "And the company values, as he saw them, were that the success of the company came through the customers, and that they were treated fairly and honestly."   

Kat Lynch is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

9/21/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected].

 

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