Iowa Board of Regents

The Presidents - Marvin S. Berenstein

Marvin S. Berenstein served as a member of the Board of Regents from 1989 to 1995. Berenstein was the 13th president of the Board and served in that capacity from 1993-95, filling the unexpired presidential term of Marvin Pomerantz from 1993-94. 

He was born December 9, 1936 and graduated from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines in 1954. Upon graduation, Berenstein attended the University of Iowa to study law. He met Zena Greenstein while working toward his bachelor’s degree and the two were married in 1958. Twin sons, Greg and Craig, were born a year later. Berenstein earned a JD in 1961 and began his law career shortly after.

After spending the early 1960s in Iowa City and Des Moines, Berenstein accepted a position with Goldberg, Nymann and Probasco, a Sioux City law firm, and relocated west. He was quickly named a partner in the firm and was elected as president of both the Sioux City Lawyers club and the Iowa State Bar Association’s Young Lawyer’s section before the decade was out. By 1980, Berenstein would be president of the Iowa State Bar Association. 

In 1989, Governor Terry Branstad appointed Berenstein to the Board of Regents to fill the seat of Dr. Percy Harris of Cedar Rapids, who was retiring after 12 years of Board service.  After President Pomerantz was reappointed to the Board by Branstad, but not confirmed by the Iowa Senate, the Board elected Berenstein president. 

“I view this election not as a reward but as an awesome responsibility to the universities, to the special schools and to the people of Iowa,” he said at the time. Berenstein noted “a touch of bittersweet” with the election since he and Pomerantz were close friends.

Berenstein’s Board approved numerous quality-of-life improvements for the universities, including the UNI Wellness and Recreation Center (WRC) and Iowa State’s Jacobson Athletic Building. 

Notably, Iowa State’s Engineering Teaching and Research Building (ETRB) project was presented to the Board during Berenstein’s first meeting at President – May 19, 1993. The ETRB project expanded to become the Engineering Teaching and Research Complex (ETRC) throughout the 1990s, eventually becoming the largest building project in Iowa State’s history. The ETRC was completed with the opening of Howe Hall in 2000 and Hoover Hall in 2004. 

Additionally, Berenstein’s Board approached the new and growing concept of online distance education with open eyes. The completion of the Iowa Communications Network (ICN), with fiber optic endpoints at each of the three universities, was met with excitement. One of the Board’s first actions under Berenstein was the creation of policies and systems for the universities and special schools to submit docket materials to the Board office electronically. Similar policies and systems are in use to this day. 

Following his time on the Board, Berenstein became an inaugural member of Vision Iowa, a state board designed to encourage development of community attractions in the state. 

Berenstein died March 21, 2023 in Sioux City. He was 86.

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