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Dedicated Professors Continue Supporting Students After Retirement

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Drs. Robert and Linda Burns have been firmly dedicated to Southeast Missouri State University for almost 50 years. The Burns were professors of English at Southeast and supporters of the Department of English at the University from 1966 until their retirement in 2001 — and their generosity continues today.

Both Linda and her late husband Robert loved their students, and that was their incentive to give back to the University in more ways than one. As first generation college students at Emporia State University in Kansas, the Burns received scholarships to help fund their educations.

"Bob and I both had jobs to help fund part of our education, but if we hadn't obtained the scholarships, we never would have been able to attend Emporia in the first place," Linda says.

Robert came to Southeast in 1966 and enjoyed a 35-year career with the University, serving as a professor of English, a director of freshman English, editor of the Cape Rock, acting chair of the Department of English and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He was also a loyal supporter of the River Campus, where he and Linda enjoyed many symphony and theatre performances.

Linda came to Southeast 1968, and during her 33-year career at the University, she served as a professor in English education, established the Southeast Writing Achievement Awards Program, served as a faculty mentor to the Southeast Missouri Teachers of English Association, served as president of the Missouri Association of Teachers of English and served as a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Teachers of English. Linda received honors for Outstanding Service from the College of Liberal Arts and for Effective Teaching of Children's Literature and Significant Influence on English Education in Schools of the University Region from the College of Humanities.

Among their many achievements, both Robert and Linda were humbled by giving back to Southeast in acknowledgement of their rewarding association with the University, supportive administrators, friendly colleagues and wonderful students. The Burns "felt a sense of loyalty and a need to ‘pay it forward,'" says Linda.

Because of his love for theatre and the River Campus, Robert established an endowed scholarship with Southeast known as the Robert A. Burns Theatre Scholarship. For Robert, a scholarship meant students would gain the opportunity to attend the University just as he was given the opportunity to attend college with the help of his scholarship at Emporia.

Linda's enthusiastic students and love for teaching English literature led to establishment of the Linda L. Burns English Education Endowed Scholarship for English education majors. Linda wanted to make sure English majors in the future would continue to have her support after her retirement.

"I really wanted to support the English majors who wanted to become teachers and mentors in English education," says Linda. "A lot of the majors were non-traditional students whom I wanted to help achieve their dreams and reach their goals."

Robert and Linda also established a third scholarship known as the Robert and Linda Burns Scholarship for English majors. Linda says it was important for them to invest along with the University to continue the support of future English majors at Southeast and give even more opportunity to the community.

Upon retirement in 2001 until Robert's passing in 2011, both Robert and Linda continued their love for learning by traveling to exotic places such as the Baltic capitals, the Mediterranean, Egypt, China, Peru and France where they explored new ventures and grew their knowledge of language and culture.

"I remember Bob's sense of humor, his kindness and compassion and his great passion for collecting. Anything from coins to books to comic books to records to rocks from every country we visited, Bob had a collection of it. I also liked how he would let me do what I want!" Linda laughs. "We were independent as individuals, but we always depended on each other for love and support."

Linda and Robert had already established a planned gift through a bequest before his death, and Linda established a charitable gift annuity for the Symphony and KRCU last fall. Linda says her gifts to the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra and KRCU were made out of love in memory of her husband Robert.

"I gave to KRCU because Bob and I always enjoyed the radio station and the classical music programs played. I want to see the radio station continue and grow, so I can keep listening to those classical music programs," she says. "The symphony gift was in honor of Bob and his love for the River Campus and music. He was the one who actually initiated me into the worlds of opera and classical music, and it is for him that I continue to support the arts."

Linda says her continued support of the University means a great deal to her, and it is because of Robert that she continues.

"I'm very pleased to be able to do this, but Bob is the reason I continue. He had the initial expertise and desire to invest in the University several years ago and because of him, I will continue to support Southeast Missouri State University," she says.

Linda wants alumni to know supporting the University is important for the future of students for generations to come.

"Southeast has given students many opportunities to attend and be part of the University. It would only seem right to ‘pay it forward' for future students. Our lives—whether as an alumnus, a faculty member or just a supporter—are a partial result of the experiences given in and around Southeast Missouri State University. Education is why we give back; we want to help our students to have a bright future and achieve their goals and dreams," she says. "It's like a cycle; giving can only lead to more giving, and we must show our students an example for future generations."

To learn how you can pay it forward like the Burns and so many others, contact Trudy G. Lee, Ed.D. at 573.651.5935 or 888.812.3769 or tglee@semo.edu.

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