Graduate Theological Union

Helping to Design Sustainable Communities

Doug Herst
Doug Herst

Imagine a green West Berkeley community with space for living, artist studios, manufacturing, startup businesses, a public garden, gym, and artisan foods. This is Doug Herst’s vision, and a project he is deeply involved in creating. “One of my values,” he says, “is taking good things, such as the many wonderful things Berkeley has to offer, and designing a way to bring them together to make them great.”

Herst takes design seriously — he is a pioneer of indirect lighting systems for schools and offices, and holder of more than 20 utility patents and fifty design patents in the U.S. and 10 patents in other countries. One of his patented designs won the State of California’s “Governor’s Award” for product innovation, and at major lighting expositions his designs have won the “Best in Category” and “Best in Show” awards.

A big part of Herst’s vision for the West Berkeley project — the Peerless Greens Community — is creating a diverse and dynamic community. So it’s no surprise that Herst served as a GTU trustee from 1991 to 1997, and has continued to be a generous donor and advocate for the GTU since then. Herst’s late father, Samuel, served as GTU Board chair in 1969. “My dad was always interested in religion,” Herst says, “and he liked the idea that students of different faiths would study together. He also instilled in me a zest for travel, which has helped me understand different cultures and religions.”

Herst’s encounter with Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night” during a summer trip in his junior year at UC Berkeley spurred his love of art and his interest in design. Now, he says, travel, and particularly the art and imagery in other countries — from Stonehenge to the Israel’s Wailing Wall to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat — helps him connect to people who may be quite different than him.

Herst is also involved as Treasurer of Seacology, a Berkeley-based organization working to preserve the endangered biodiversity of islands throughout the world by finding win-win solutions where islanders receive a tangible benefit for protecting their environments.

From West Berkeley to the GTU to the island of Moorea, Herst says, “I’m delighted to be in a position to help make things a little better in communities.”