Previous winners of Lander University's Moore Award for Excellence in General Education Teaching have received praise for their dedication to general education courses, as well as their devotion to students of all academic disciplines who enter these courses with varying levels of aptitude. Those who knew Jack Burton, the 2019 recipient of the Moore Award, confidently attest that he, too, fit the bill.
As a Lander alum with a B.S. in environmental science, Burton enjoyed his role as a lecturer of chemistry at his alma mater. He loved having the opportunity to help prepare students for a successful future, regardless of their declared major, in addition to helping many uncover a hidden passion for science and the environment.
Due to his health, Burton was unable to accept the award at Lander's academic awards ceremony on April 25, and passed away a month later on May 26. Yet, according to his students and colleagues, there was no educator more deserving of this honor.
A proud alum
While all members of the Lander faculty have a passion for shaping minds, Burton's passion was unique in that he called Lander University his alma mater as well as his place of employment. Those who knew him best noted that he often went the extra mile to help his students both in and out of the classroom. "Jack Burton loved Lander University and was extremely dedicated to the institution and to his students," said Jeff Hollifield, lecturer of chemistry at Lander. "He always volunteered for opportunities to serve students, such as participation in house calls, the midnight breakfast before final exams and any field trip that would provide an opportunity for him to share his excitement about science."
Hollifield also stated that Burton was so eager to help Lander's students that he often took on teaching extra classes for the department. "If anyone has ever deserved to be recognized by receiving the Moore Award, an award for excellence in general education, it would be Jack," said Hollifield. "He saw his service to Lander as a calling; not just a job."
Dr. Daniel Pardieck, professor of environmental geology, echoed Hollifield's comments. "Jack did very well in making chemistry, a subject often reviled by non-science students because of its abstract and quantitative nature, relevant to general education students," said Pardieck. "He related the material to their personal lives and experiences quite often, which had both the effect of increasing interest and increasing understanding."
Building confidence in students
Many of Burton's former students credit him for creating a love for science. Dr. Diana Delach, assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Lander, pointed to the effusive praise her colleague often received from his pupils. "He helped them move beyond any fears or concerns in the lab, such that they could safely learn," said Delach. "He also went above and beyond with respect to availability to students."
Meg O'Dell, who graduated from Lander in 2018 with a chemistry degree and attended Our Lady of Lourdes with Burton, agreed with Delach, attesting to his devotion to Lander's students, whether he knew them from class or from his involvement in the larger Greenwood community. "Mr. Burton genuinely wanted to get to know the people around him," said O'Dell. "By doing this, he was able to cater to each individual student depending on their various needs."
Dr. Albert Dukes, associate professor of chemistry, admired Burton for his work to ensure his students' success. "Jack was always able to alleviate the anxiety that his students felt about taking chemistry," said Dukes. "He was successful in encouraging his students to work through problems when they encountered them in lab. He used these teaching moments to build his students' confidence."
A love for Moonpies
Aside from his love of science, Burton shared many of his other interests and hobbies with his friends at Lander, including "the best of bad movies," "motorcycle racing," and "Star Wars," according to Dr. David Slimmer, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. "He did more than talk chemistry to them. He talked chemistry with them," said Slimmer. "He took advantage of whatever time he had with them, from walks in the hallway, to sharing Moonpies in his office, to working in the classroom."
Dr. Delach, too, fondly remembers Burton's love of sharing Moonpies with his students during office hours. "He had his usuals that would come by just to say hello and snack on a Moonpie with him, whereas other times he came in hours before his first labs were supposed to start so that he could meet with students who were struggling with the material," said Delach.
Leaving a Legacy
In addition to their tributes, Burton's colleagues are in the process of creating a scholarship fund in his memory, and invite members of the community to make a contribution. Those interested may send a check payable to The Lander Foundation (Lander University, 320 Stanley Ave., Campus Box 6004, 29649), with "Memorial for Jack Burton" on the memo line of the check, or call The Lander Foundation at 864-388-8350.
This story is featured in the Fall 2019 edition of Lander Magazine. Read more at www.lander.edu/magazine.