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Roland Burke (right) with his son Matthew.
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CAS 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Burke Passes Away

August 10, 2009

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University alumnus Roland P. Burke, 63, of Creve Couer, MO, passed away on Aug. 6.

Burke, who earned his bachelor's degree in political science with honors (1968) at Western, was to receive the College of Arts and Sciences 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Award during the college's annual scholarship fund raising dinner on Oct. 16.

He earned a master's degree in urban and regional planning (1977) from the University of Iowa.

Originally from Springfield, IL, Burke began his professional life in Boston, MA working at the Boston Housing Authority. He later worked as a multi-family real estate developer with the Bartlett Development Company and went on to become an executive vice president of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company of Boston, where he worked from 1984-1999. Burke served as the president of Gannon Development Company in Saint Louis from 1999 until his retirement in December 2008. During his tenure as president, the Institute of Real Estate Management named Gannon the Saint Louis Multi-family Property Management Company of the Year three times.

An active member in community service, Burke served as chairman of the board of the YMCA in West Roxbury, MA. He was a member of the Ethical Society of Saint Louis and served on its board of directors and building and grounds committee. He also served as a member of the board of directors of the World Affairs Council of Saint Louis.

In April 2009, Western Illinois University's College of Arts and Sciences Advancement Board named Burke the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus for his lifetime professional and civic achievements. His reputation as a community conscious individual who worked with various municipalities to develop low- and moderate-income housing through HUD and Section 8 programs was recognized throughout his career.

"Roland was a fantastic alumnus," said College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean Susan Martinelli-Fernandez. "I had the good fortune to meet him at last year's Homecoming celebrations. He had an amazing energy and outlook. His distinguished alumnus award was certainly a well-deserved honor. Our condolences go out to Connie, Christopher, Matthew and the rest of Roland's family."

"We are saddened by the loss of Roland," said College of Arts and Sciences Advancement Board President Cathy Early. "We were excited to name him distinguished alumnus this year. His record of life-long achievement in his professional and personal life was a shining example of someone who paid forward his success. We will continue with plans to present his distinguished alumnus award posthumously in October.'

Burke was known for his love of family, his great verve for life, his wonderful sense of humor, his leadership skills, his dedication to physical fitness and his ability to turn everyone he met into a friend. He was an avid reader, expert crossword and Sudoku puzzle master, and a lifetime runner, having run 1,000 miles each year and competed in numerous road races. He loved to travel and visited many countries around the world. Burke was also a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln and collected Lincoln memorabilia. He belonged to and led Great Conversations, Great Books and Short Story groups centered at the Ethical Society. He believed strongly in a constant improvement of body and mind and was always educating himself further. Roland was also a dedicated hard worker who strived for perfection and won many prestigious awards throughout his career.

Surviving are Burke's wife, Connie Case Burke, and his sons Christopher J. Burke and Matthew E. Burke. He is also survived by his brother, Charles E. Burke of Springfield, IL, three step-children, seven step-grandchildren, one nephew and one niece.

Vancil-Murphy Funeral Home in Springfield, IL is handling arrangements, which will be announced soon.

Copy provided by Jeff Dodd, assistant to the dean
College of Arts and Sciences

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