Dr. Edward W. Burke, Former Professor Passes
It is with great sadness that I share the loss of one of King’s most beloved professors, Dr. Edward W. Burke, Jr., who passed away yesterday. Dr. Burke spent over 40 years not only mentoring students at King, but also developing programming for the College that will have positive impacts far into the future.
Recently, King recognized Dr. Burke’s achievement with the announcement of an Endowed Chair in the Natural Sciences in his name. The Endowed Chair will help attract and retain highly qualified faculty in natural sciences by providing on-going funds for salary, benefits, and supplies to support education and research. Equally important, it will carry the Edward W. Burke Jr., legacy into the future of King College.
Among his many awards and achievements, Dr. Burke served as Fulbright professor at the University of Chile in Santiago, Chile, and as a visiting observer with the Kitt Peak National Observatory. He received the Pegram Award for the outstanding physics professor in the southeastern United States. He has also conducted extensive research in astronomy on variable stars.
Dr. Burke began his career at King College in 1949, teaching physics and astronomy. Many consider Burke the father of King’s astronomy program. In 1950, with his guidance, astronomy students assembled a machine shop, and in 1952, they completed the construction of the College’s first telescope. In 1957, he initiated the Moonwatch Program, an international satellite-observing program which was organized and controlled by the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory to track satellites which the U.S. planned to launch in 1958-59. He also organized the Bristol Astronomy Club.
Dr. Burke was named chairman of the division of natural sciences and mathematics in 1960, a position he held till his retirement in 1991. He also served the College as vice president for academic affairs from 1977 until 1980. He currently serves as professor emeritus for King.
After the creation of King’s first telescope, Dr. Burke began inviting both students and the public to come to the College to view the stars, a tradition which holds true today. The College’s observatory, re-named for Dr. Burke in 1981, now houses a classroom and research space, as well as a reflecting telescope with an electronic camera that records digitized images.
Originally from Macon, Ga., Dr. Burke entered the Navy V-12 program at Newberry College in July 1943. He attended the Notre Dame Midshipman School in June 1944 and was commissioned as ensign in Oct. 1944. He attended MTB (PT Boat) School in Melville, R.I., in Nov. 1944, then joined MTB RON 17 in the Philippines in Jan. 1945 and decommissioned PT boats at the end of WWII. He was also assigned to minesweeper AM-316 prior to being discharged to the Naval Reserve in 1946.
Dr. Burke went on to graduate magna cum laude from Presbyterian College, receiving his Bachelor of Science in mathematics in June 1947. He received his Master of Science in physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1949. He then went on to receive his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1954.