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New scholarship honors dean and mentor Alverna Burdick

Dean E. Alverna Burdick
Dean E. Alverna Burdick

From 1926 until 1958, students who needed a sympathetic ear - and some common-sense advice - knew just where to turn: to Dean E. Alverna Burdick. An alumna who attended Connecticut College on scholarship during World War II is so grateful, she has established a scholarship in Burdick's name. "I would not have made it through college without Dean Burdick," said the alumna, whose gift is anonymous. "I must have been in her office once a week. She was a saint. She was all warmth and personality."

The alumna, an immigrant from Europe, has asked that the scholarship be designated for a first-generation college student. It was awarded for the first time this fall, to an entering freshman from rural New England. Burdick, who taught in the physical education department, became dean of students in 1931 and held the position 27 years. The door to her office on the second floor of Fanning Hall was always open, and students didn't hesitate to visit. Burdick expected the best in effort and character from every student. She had an easy manner and a sense of humor that often drew on her roots in rural Greenfield, Penn. - a town that is "more of a condition than a place," she joked. She credited her father for her good nature and common sense.

Burdick was an enthusiastic supporter of the students, whether they were putting on a play, competing on an athletic field or reaching to find an answer to a difficult question in class. She made sure that students who needed spending money had it, and that those who couldn't get home on vacations had a place to stay. In 1958 she retired to return to home and run the family farm, including a grocery store and gas station. The students in East House voted that year to change the name of their residence to E. Alverna Burdick House.

The alumna who created the scholarship said she always wanted to honor Burdick, who died in 1970. "I'm in a position to do for others what she enabled me to do. She helped me to deal with an unfamiliar environment. I'm happy to give other young people a chance to come to a place like Connecticut College," she said. "It made it possible for the American Dream to come true for me." This year's scholarship recipient will get a top-quality liberal arts education, the alumna said. "It will make a very big difference in her life," she said. "All she needs is a leg up."

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September 19, 2011