Remembering Business Professor William Burke

January 23, 2017


In addition to his many accomplishments in the corporate world with the Bank of Manhattan, W.R. Grace and Sandoz, Professor William Burke, who died last week, found a successful second career teaching business policy, financial management, corporate finance, and management planning and control at Stonehill. He also served with distinction as Chair of the Business Administration department.

Furthermore, for six years before he retired in 2004 at the age of 80, he switched focus to become the College’s first Director of Strategic Planning. In that role, he pioneered a strategic planning process that guided the College as it entered the 21st century and prepared a foundation for Stonehill’s current strategic initiatives.

A courteous gentleman, known for his trademark bow-tie, Burke was a consummate professional. He was generous with his time and expertise when challenging and advising students. With his academic peers, he was always collaborative and helpful.

Trustee Robert Rivers ’86 is just one of many former students who credit Burke for his wise mentorship and for his “visioning, practical advice and guidance.” In particular, Rivers, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Bank, recalls an assignment that Burke gave during his senior year as a key step towards the career he currently holds. For the assignment, Rivers and his classmates had to develop a business plan for life after college.

“We had to outline an ultimate goal and the steps necessary to achieve it,” explains Rivers, “The idea was to aim high, for something seemingly unreachable, with the thought that if we fell short, we’d still end up further ahead than if we had accepted a more reasonable target.”

For Rivers, his goal was to become the president of the largest bank headquartered in Boston by the time he was 40 years of age. Thanks to Burke’s challenge, Rivers put in place a plan that helped him to reach that goal at Eastern Bank by the time he was 42.

“I had many great mentors at Stonehill, Fred Petti in Philosophy, Chet Raymo in Physics and Ed Vaughan in Business, but Professor Burke really inspired me. As a mentor, he left the biggest impression and I am very grateful to him for what he shared with me,” says Rivers who reconnected with Burke in his retirement. “Fortunately, I was able to close the loop and thank him for his advice.”