TRIBUTE TO DR. PAUL BURGETT '64 (1946-2018)
In 1987, when Dr. Paul Burgett '64 received the Backer Award, he said SLUH gave him the confidence to believe “the world has got to be better because I’m in it.” The first African American to be honored with SLUH’s most prestigious alumni award, Burgett did more than his part to make the world a better place.
During a 54-year career at the University of Rochester, Dr. Paul Burgett served in an extraordinary number of key roles: student body president at Eastman, faculty member in the Department of Music, dean of students at Eastman and for the University, advisor to four University presidents, a University vice president, and general secretary to the University’s Board of Trustees. Along the way, he steeped himself in the history of the University, becoming the leading storyteller of the institution.
“Anyone who worked with Paul was deeply impressed by his commitment to each and every individual in our community,” says Richard Feldman, President of the University of Rochester.
“While he had a masterful grasp of the institution, its place in higher education and its history, he remembered almost every student he ever met by name. And his genuine, heartfelt and gracious interest in the success of every student, faculty and staff member and administrator drove every decision he made as a university leader and every initiative he championed at the university. To say he will be missed doesn’t do justice to his lasting impact on the university community.”
FROM THE ARCHIVE
Prep News | Volume 52 (November 20, 1987)
Award Recipient Addresses Students
BY JIM WESSLING '89
“The Jesuit education I received taught me to read, write, and think. I also learned to be a moral man, a good citizen, and a responsible person.”
So said Dr. Paul Burgett, 1964 SLUH alumnus, who returned to SLUH on Friday for the second time since leaving for college at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
Dr. Burgett is the second-youngest and first black alumnus to receive the Backer Award. The honor was presented to him last Thursday evening, November 12.
Burgett said that he learned of his selection for the Backer Award about a month ago.
The two other new Backer Award recipients are Mr. Robert Hyland '36 and the Honorable Richard Mehan '41. Dr. Burgett noted that they both have had “very distinguished careers.” “I am honored to be included in this group.”
At the assembly, Dr. Burgett reminisced about years in the band. He also said his other accomplishment in music was the violin.
At SLUH, he was officer of his class freshman, sophomore, and junior years, before being elected student body president as a senior.
Since Dr. Burgett was coming to St. Louis to receive the award, he decided also to visit his alma mater and talk with the students. Mr. Schulte introduced him to the two assemblies.
Dr. Burgett explained various careers in the field of music to the instrumental and vocal classes. He also related what life in a professional music school was like and suggested ways to prepare for competing to enter a major music school.
Dr. Burgett talked to the members of the OBA (Organization for Black Achievement) after the assemblies. “It was terrific to be able to meet with them as a black alumnus to encourage them and tell them the good things about my experience,” noted Burgett.
According to Kevin Logan '89, “The OBA needed an alumnus to give an idea of what it was like to be a black student at SLUH.
He told us the advantages the OBA [offered us]. He didn’t have that organization then. He felt he had no one to talk to because of the separation between the black and white students while he was at SLUH. Now, with the organization, he pointed out which route to go to solve some problems at school.”
OBA member Roy Williams '89 said Burgett “gives me hope because the four black students in his class got their doctorates and are successful.”
Dr. Burgett has been dean of students at the Eastman School of Music for the past seven years. As dean, he attends to academic and non-academic counseling, program advising for foreign studies, and career planning, as well as other responsibilities.
Dr. Burgett will assume the position of University Vice-President and Chief Student Affairs Officer as of January 1, 1988. He will have the responsibility of organizing the office of vice-president for student affairs. According to Dr. Burgett, he will have to “create an organization” since this is the first vice president in student affairs in over a decade.
Although these new responsibilities will limit his time for teaching and conducting, Burgett will still teach a course called “Music of Black Americans.”
Dr. Burgett’s visit convinced him that the atmosphere at SLUH has remained the same. “A standard of scholastic excellence at SLUH permeates the school.”
When asked whether he thought the school has changed much, he replied, “Nothing has been sacrificed from the academic excellence. It has expanded – for example, the art program.”
His high school education gave him the confidence to believe “the world has got to be better because I’m in it. I learned that at this place. I say very proudly I’m a Jesuit product as a graduate of SLUH. It presented me a larger vision of the world. The institution has great expectations that its graduates will be leaders.”