Remembering Jordan Birger

The chemical engineering alumnus and entrepreneur passed away in July 2021.
Jordan Birger

Jordan Birger, E43, chemical engineer, entrepreneur, and dedicated friend of Tufts University and the School of Engineering, passed away in July of 2021 at the age of 98. The great loves of Birger’s life, according to his son Chet, were “his family, Tufts University, and the Boston Red Sox.”

Birger majored in chemical engineering at Tufts, where he played varsity lacrosse and soccer, and was a member of the Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity. His dedication to Tufts students, and to the School of Engineering, never faded. Birger’s many contributions included service on the Tufts Engineering Board of Advisors and the Tufts Alumni Council. In addition to his own generosity, he worked hard to foster philanthropy among alumni and friends of Tufts and the School of Engineering. In 1973, the University presented him with its Distinguished Service Award.

Linda Abriola, who served as Dean of the School of Engineering at Tufts from 2003 to 2015, remembers Birger as a dedicated supporter of the School of Engineering and a wonderful friend and advisor during her time as dean. Birger was a willing volunteer for numerous task forces and strategic initiatives, “and was especially generous of his time and resources to help improve undergraduate education,” says Abriola. “I greatly admired his energy, warmth, and wisdom.”

Soon after graduating with the Tufts Class of 1943, Birger served in the U.S. Army’s 93rd Chemical Mortar Battalion during World War II. In April of 1945, he was among the American soldiers who liberated Ohrdruf, the first Nazi concentration camp to be freed by US troops. Birger’s son Chet says that witnessing the atrocities at Ohdruf was a life-altering experience for his father, yet it did not dim his belief in the fundamental goodness of others.

Jordan Birger celebrating grandson Jack Birger’s 2012 commencement
Jordan Birger, E43, celebrating grandson Jack Birger’s commencement in 2012. From left, Professor and Chair Kurt Pennell, Jack Birger, Dean Linda Abriola, and Jordan Birger.

Birger and his wife Barbara Ann had three children: sons Chet and Jon, and a daughter Kimberly, who passed away in 1967. During the course of his successful career, Birger founded three companies in the plastics industry, all part of a post-war boom in American plastics innovation and manufacturing. He established his third company, Family Products, Inc., with his brother, Marvin Birger, E49, J77P, A86P, in 1972.

“He always wanted to learn something new,” says Chet. “He valued innovation, and wanted Tufts to be at the cutting-edge in engineering, but he also recognized that it was all about people.” Chet recalls his time working for the family business as a young man and seeing his father interact with employees on the factory floor. “It gave me an opportunity to see my dad through other people's eyes,” he says. “I realized that they saw him in much the same way that I did, as a fundamentally kind person and a marvelous listener who just loved connecting with people.”

In 2012, Jordan Birger attended the Tufts graduation of his grandson Jack, a civil engineering major, and had the opportunity to present him with a Tufts diploma. “It was one of the best days of my dad’s life,” says Chet. At Birger’s memorial service, his granddaughter Nina, who graduated from Tufts in 2010 with a degree in English and Peace and Justice Studies, spoke of the “relentless joy” her grandfather found in personal interactions, whether he was buying a newspaper, stopping by the post office, or going to a game at Fenway Park. As a child, Nina marveled at his gift for connection; as an adult, she admired him even more for the goodwill he showed to friends and strangers alike.

In all arenas of his life—engineer, entrepreneur, colleague, family member, and friend—Jordan Birger exemplified the well-rounded Tufts engineer, combining ingenuity and experience with integrity, perceptiveness, and a profound respect for others. Tufts University and the School of Engineering are proud to celebrate his life and legacy.