Allen Burris joined Meredith College in 1969 and in his roles as Vice President, Dean, and Professor of History he was respected and admired by many. His impact is still felt today even after his passing on September 24, 2016.
To honor Burris, his family endowed the C. Allen Burris Sabbatical Fund to support faculty taking time out of the classroom for professional development.
In Burris’s obituary, the family described Meredith College as “the place where his life’s goals as an educator and his lifelong concern with issues of equality and social justice would be fulfilled. He brought hard work, innovation, intelligence, and good spirits to the mission of furthering women’s higher education in the South in the last decades of the 20th century. He believed vigorously in the concept of a liberal arts education and actively supported Meredith’s humanities, science, art, drama, music, mathematics, business, and athletic programs.”
Burris was the dean when Meredith launched its first study abroad program, which reflected his support of global education. In 1973, Burris completed a Fulbright in Pakistan, and his scholarly career later took him on research trips to England, the Soviet Union, Peru, China, Japan, and Italy.
Burris believed an educator’s greatest obstacle to professional development and renewal is lack of time.
“He believed it to be vitally important for teaching faculty to expand their horizons by digging up obscure knowledge, analyzing new data, and scrutinizing current modes of thinking in fields beyond their own (sometimes limiting) patch of academia,” said his son David Burris. “Whether it be blowing dust off a forgotten tome in the Reading Room of the British Museum, interfacing with thinkers abroad, or simply finding a quiet, inspiring place to write (all things he did on his sabbaticals) our dad believed that what faculty could achieve on sabbatical would, naturally, flow downstream to their students and across to their fellow academics.”
When faculty are proposing courses or programs, research opportunities, or publications, the necessity of significant blocks of time to think, read, reflect, plan, build, and revise are important to the likelihood of success. The C. Allen Burris Sabbatical Fund will help to fund more of these experiences.
“The C. Allen Burris Sabbatical Fund is critical to ensuring a faculty member’s sabbatical is all it should be: a time of intense reflection, research, connection, and productivity. For many faculty, the sabbatical project involves networking with colleagues to explore timely issues; sharing research methods, data, and samples; conducting research and scholarship in near and remote places; and having the appropriate tools and software to carry out such projects,” said President Jo Allen. “Without this fund, those expenses come from the faculty member’s pocket. While no faculty member is free-wheeling with institutional resources, such limitations may mean a modest, rather than a breakthrough, opportunity to resolve critical questions and problems in their field. We are pleased that the C. Allen Burris Sabbatical Fund, the first of its kind that we know of, has been funded by the Burris family in honor of an academic leader whose proudest claim to fame was being a faculty member: teacher, researcher, and reflective practitioner of his field.”
Provost Matthew Poslusny says the C. Allen Burris sabbatical fund is a wonderful enhancement of the Meredith sabbatical process.
“These funds will allow our faculty to do more during their sabbatical. For example, this year alone it is assisting one faculty member to conduct research in Europe and another to have access to books that she wouldn’t otherwise have. A third professor is using it to attend a one month course during her sabbatical.”
The family believes this gift is the perfect way to pay tribute to Burris, who loved Meredith College and wanted the best for each student who attended.
“Dad would have been honored and terribly pleased to be able to assist this generation of teachers and thinkers to find some time and resources to help them expand the greater body of knowledge and understanding,” said David Burris. “We hope our family’s gift to support faculty sabbaticals at Meredith will help build on the life work of our father. And as a teacher and devoted supporter of Meredith herself, our mom, Jane Burris, believed this would be a wonderful remembrance of our dad.”