Remembering a legend

Dr. Ron Burgher's former students gathered in the Concord University Ballroom Saturday to pay tribute to and tell stories of the man who made an impact in all of their lives. 

ATHENS — Two days after what would have been his 79th birthday, the colorful Dr. Ronald C. Burgher was remembered by former colleagues and students in an informal memorial service in the ballroom of the Beasley Student Center at Concord University Saturday.

Sarah Turner, CU’s Director of Alumni and Donor Relations and a former student of Burgher’s, opened the ceremony by welcoming those present by saying, “We’re here to celebrate the life of Dr. Ronald Burger, a man you either loved or hated but always respected.”

Concord Academic Dean Emeritus Dr. Dean Turner, who was a colleague of Burgher’s from 1972 until his own retirement, began the remarks in the ballroom saying, “I had the privilege of serving with Burgher. I remember the flying saucers and the ‘loser’ awards (also known as the ‘Ronnies), his constant obsession with fact finding and his unique and often blunt teaching methods. I also remember him arranging a drone flyover to find out a Concord football score.”

Several former students and “disciples” came to the podium to speak of their memories of the professor they either loved, hated, or loved to hate.

Josh Exline boasted about the time when he accomplished the rare feat of offending Burgher by singing a Dennis Leary song during a talent show..

‘He told me, “I didn’t think it was possible (to offend me)”.

Exline said Burgher and he bonded over issues such as their mutual love for CU, Democratic politics and surviving cancer and that Burgher took a special interest in Exline’s son.

One of the themes of the memorial, were the lessons Burgher taught them, not only about the fundamentals of speech and communication; but about how to prevail in life and to stand up for what you see as right.

Charlie Croy said Burgher’s lessons helped him in his job as a fire safety instructor and educator.

“He had three rules: Tell what you’re going to tell them; tell them; and tell them what you just told them”, he said.

Greg Puckett said, “He was the toughest teacher I ever had and we really didn’t bond until I did parley cards at First and 10 (Danny’s). He taught me to see both sides of an argument and his cast parties were legendary.’

Scott Brewer said Burgher served as a father figure for his wife Kristi Shields Brewer to the point that he approved Brewer’s withdrawal from Concord to be with her as she went to graduate school.

Tom Bone said Burgher stood up for what he believed, even if it came at the (temporary) expense of his job..

“He wanted you to figure out what was right. He did that to everyone who crossed his path,: he said.

Testimonials also came from Jamie Huffman, David Marrs, Lisa Miles, Chris Tuck, Rachel Taylor, Gerald Hayden, Jamie Hypes, Dr. David Bard, Carol Bard, Miles Goosens, Stephen Jones, Rachel Taylor,Emily Myers, Dewayne Muncy and, via letter, Omar J. Abolhosn. All of whom spoke with poise, passion, and respect about the man who made a resounding impact on all of their lives, personally and professionally.

Dr. Burgher arrived at Concord in 1972 and soon became immersed in academic and student activities. Among the courses he taught were Fundamentals of Speech, Argumentation and Debate, Persuasion, Communication Law, and various public relations and mass communication classes. He was Chair of the Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts (Communication Arts), Director of Debate, and Chair of the Division of Fine Arts.

He served on the Academic Affairs Council, Instructional Affairs Council, the Student Affairs Council and the Faculty Senate. Dr. Burgher also served as the advisor to the Concordian and the Student Government Association and held the post of Faculty Athletics Representative. He retired from teaching at Concord in 2003.

As a retiree in DeLand, FL, he participated in activities at Stetson University including attending athletic events; was part of a local community theatre group; and served on the City of DeLand Senior Council, publishing a monthly newsletter for the group. He and his wife, Linda, also enjoyed traveling.

Contact Jeff Harvey at delimartman@yahoo.com.