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Georgia Couple Establishes Scholarship at Catawba College

November 8, 2005

Category: Alumni, Students

Murray and Linda BurkeSalisbury native and Catawba College Alumnus Murray Burke '54 and wife Linda, of Woodstock, Ga., have established an endowed scholarship at the College in memory of his parents.  Preference for the Esther Camp and Pete Burke Endowed Scholarship will go to day students from Rowan County.

Burke says they decided to establish the scholarship "because of what Catawba meant to me as a student in the 1950s and its contribution to whatever success I achieved in my business career."  Burke is retired as operations manager with BellSouth after a 40-year career and he remembers fondly Catawba Professors Millard Wilson (business) and Lionel Whiston (religion and philosophy) for their guidance and support.  He explains that if Catawba had not been a college located in Salisbury he would not have been able to attend college at all due to the costs.  "I could afford to attend Catawba because I could work to pay my way while going to classes as a day student."

Burke describes his late parents as "hardworking people who believed strongly in a college education although neither of them was able to attend college."  His mother was employed for many years by Purcell's, a Salisbury clothing store, and his father at Rusher's Tire, a local service station.  Burke notes with pride that he was first in his family to earn a college degree.  His siblings include Carolyn Whitler and Martha Perkins of Winston-Salem and the late Sarah Burke of Salisbury.

Burke's family, of Irish descent, has lived in Rowan County for over 200 years and his family church was First United Methodist.  He says with the death of his sister Sarah that for the first time in over 100 years there was not of member of his family as a member of that church.  Salisbury was a wonderful hometown in which to grow up, Burke says, noting that he his very proud of his Salisbury roots.

A graduate of Boyden High School where he played on the basketball team, Burke also played semi-pro basketball in Salisbury for Salisbury Sporting Goods along with his friends and fellow Catawba classmates Donald Dedmon '54 of Salisbury and Travis Stokes '57 of Hickory.  He recalls that that basketball team was the first in North Carolina to play an interracial basketball game against the all-black team from Price High School in Salisbury.  

Catawba Senior Vice President Tom Childress notes that Murray and Linda Burke have a long history of supporting the institution.  He says they have consistently contributed to the College's various campaign efforts and have used BellSouth's matching gift program to increase their employee contributions to the College.  In addition to the cash contribution to the endowed scholarship, they have made Catawba the owner of two separate life insurance policies that will come to the institution upon Murray's death bringing the total endowment in time to $100,000.

Linda Burke, although not a graduate of Catawba, speaks with special fondness of the College and the relationships she and Murray maintain with friends who graduated with Murray.  She recalls that she and Murray re-established a friendship with Clyde Brown '54 of North Wilkesboro and his wife Anne when they attended 2004 Homecoming festivities on campus and both Clyde and Murray were inducted into Catawba's Golden Club.

"What really impressed us the most when we were back on campus was the attitude of the students," Linda explains.  "They were so nice and gracious to us and treated us so very well while we were on campus."

Linda, a native of Jonesboro, Ga., is also retired from BellSouth after a successful 35-year career in human resources.

And although retired, the Burkes are active volunteers in their community and in their church, Hillside United Methodist.  They enjoy playing tennis and also travel widely, having visited all seven continents.  Murray has two adult sons, Steve Burke of Portland, Ore., and Mark Burke of Dacula, Ga., and the Burkes greatly enjoy spending time with their three grandchildren.

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