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March 28, 2005

Former Graduate School Dean Fred Burke Dies

Fred G. Burke, a former administrator and professor emeritus of political science, died March 11. He was 79.

Burke, who lived in Milford, Pa., was appointed vice president for graduate education and research, dean of the graduate school, and professor of political science in 1983. He held his administrative position until 1986, and continued to teach political science until he retired in 1992.

“I had the privilege of knowing Fred both as my professor and advisor and as a friend,” says Matt Losak, senior communications officer with the AFL-CIO. “His insights into the world, its history and politics were extraordinary.”

Losak, a graduate student in the early 1990’s, adds, “Above all other titles, Fred was a teacher. He was always willing to sit with me and countless other students and go over the wording of a term paper, to kindly and clearly explain how to improve one’s academic work and understanding.”

Richard Vengroff, a UConn professor of political science, was a graduate student under Burke at Syracuse. “Fred Burke inspired a whole generation of Africanist scholars, putting numerous students in the field, and emphasizing local level democracy and participation long before others thought to do so,” Vengroff says. “He led by example and by his deep commitment to equity and justice.”

Thomas Peters, program director in the Graduate School, says Burke placed a high priority on recruiting highly-qualified students and on developing effective procedures for evaluating graduate degree programs:

“During Fred’s tenure as vice president, among many other accomplishments, the Named Graduate School Fellowships Program was conceived and implemented. This important program continues today, providing support to graduate students in 16 fields of study.”

Burke was born in Collins, N.Y. He was in the Army Air Forces in World War II and served in the Korean War. He received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College, and a master’s and a doctorate from Princeton University.

Burke taught political science at Ohio Wesleyan University, Syracuse University, and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

He also was Rhode Island’s commissioner of education from 1970 to 1974, and commissioner of education in New Jersey from 1974 to 1982.

He traveled often to Africa, wrote six books on African affairs, and was a consultant to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He also directed the training of Peace Corps volunteers in East Africa.

Burke’s wife, three sons, and four grandchildren survive him.