DU Alumni

As roommates in the ’70s, four alums forged a friendship that has lasted a lifetime

70sRoommates

Seated, left to right: Ed Silberman and Scott Feldman. Standing, left to right: Mike Burg and Bruce Nathanson. The four connected while looking for a place to live off-campus.

It all began on 942 Pontiac St. near Lowry Air Force Base, an address etched in the brains of the four DU alums who lived together during the 1970-71 school year.

Mike Burg and Bruce Nathanson had known each other since high school, while Scott Feldman and Eddie Silberman met as fraternity brothers at Phi Sigma Delta, now known as Zeta Beta Tau. By chance, the four students connected while looking for a place to live off-campus. They chose a small three-bedroom house 20 minutes from campus. Political science major Burg volunteered to live in the basement. He placed his bed inconveniently below the laundry chute, a decision his roommates regularly took advantage of. Silberman recalls Feldman, whose life goal was to become a journalist, practicing reading news copy aloud in the mirror.

They became good friends that year, but no one anticipated that the friendship would last a lifetime. The men shared a strong sense of independence and focus, and they went in vastly different directions following graduation. After earning a degree in marketing, Nathanson accepted a position with a large international grain company and eventually became a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, working in complex areas of agricultural risk management for several multi-national Fortune 500 food companies.

Silberman attended law school during the day and worked as a sales associate in a men’s clothing store at night, strengthening the sales skills to which he attributes much of his success. He eventually went on to start his own practice as a real estate attorney.

While attending DU, Feldman was writing news copy for Denver’s NBC affiliate and working as a newscaster for a local radio station. He began applying for jobs around the country, including a reporter position in Toledo, Ohio. Feldman says that while visiting Nathanson in Chicago, they encountered a flat-bed truck carrying a “Toledo scale.” It was at that moment that Nathanson yelled, “That’s it! You will get the job in Toledo!” A week later, Feldman was offered the Toledo job covering local news, city hall and police. The position was a jump start to an immensely successful career. Feldman was an Emmy award-winning anchor and reporter who covered major stories such as Iran Contra, the Challenger shuttle disaster, TWA flight 800 and the 9/11 terror attacks.

Back in Denver, Burg enrolled in the DU law school, passing the bar exam in 1976. When his first job in law ended in disappointment, Burg started his own practice. It was unsuccessful at first, and while he kept the practice alive, he supplemented his income by doing stand-up comedy, acting and modeling. Silberman recalls Burg’s passion for acting in college and never expected him to go into law, yet he sees the parallels looking back: “His acting interest and experience served him well as an attorney and is a major reason for his success. Being able to tell a story.”

Burg’s career flourished when he returned to law and joined forces with former senator Alan Simpson, establishing trial law firm Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine in Denver. He was appointed by federal judges to be the lead on major pharmaceutical mass tort cases, including the infamous Yaz birth control case that led to $2 billion in settlement payouts. Burg was the first Colorado lawyer and the only DU graduate to be inducted into the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame. He serves on the State Supreme Court Nominating Commission, appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The friendship among the former roommates took a backseat while they established themselves in the world. It ultimately took the four friends 25 years to reunite. During a slow day at work, Nathanson Googled Feldman and called the Long Island television station where he worked. He then called the other guys and floated the idea of a reunion, after which the friends met for a long weekend. While it was awkward at first, they now take a trip together each year to reminisce about their adventures as roommates at DU. They tell the same stories and jokes over and over, yet the laughter remains the same. The four friends describe each other as brothers. While their political views differ greatly, they share the same sense of humor. Most importantly, they had and continue to have a great deal of respect for each other.

But there is much more to their friendship than get-togethers. When Silberman’s son developed schizophrenia as a freshman in college and his daughter was diagnosed with an emotional mental health issue, the friends stood by his side. “You lose most of your friends because they think it’s your fault or they don’t know what to say. These guys stuck by me,” Silberman says.

Silberman left his job as an attorney in 2004 to take care of his children and became a program manager at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, teaching families how to navigate the system and get the best care for their loved ones.

“Bruce is the spoke in the wheel of the friendship,” Burg says. From predicting Feldman’s future in journalism to organizing their first reunion, Nathanson recognized the strength of their bond and foresaw bright futures for all his housemates. Their memories of their time as housemates remain vivid — so vivid that Mike wrote some of them down in his upcoming memoir, “Trial by Fire: One Man’s Battle to End Corporate Greed and Save Lives.”

Where their next reunion will take place remains unknown, but they look forward to reminiscing for many more years to come.

6 Comments

  1. Michael Kaplan says:

    Way to go zbt men regards from an under classmate Michael Kaplan (kappy )

  2. All great guys (Nate most of the time)! Although I knew much of this I learned a few things as well. Great story and friendship! To many more reunions boys!

    • Hey Wolfson…. You are fortunate to have Nate around all of the time in Chicago. We only get to see him once or twice a year. Lucky you. el

  3. Great story. Great friendship. Great times. Good to know you.
    Steve

  4. Randy Gerber says:

    Great story. Good for you guys.

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