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Scholarships Come Full Circle for Larry Burke ’73Ed, ’77GEd and Family

Monday, September 2, 2013

Supporting student scholarships is always a noble goal. And as Larry Burke ’73Ed, ’77GEd and his family recently learned, you never know who you might be helping.

“My son, Andrew, got married last November,” said Burke, who currently serves as Assistant Director in the Office of Field Experiences within St. John’s The School of Education. “Instead of giving out small gifts to their guests at the wedding, Andrew and his wife decided to make a contribution to the LeeAnne Burke Scholarship Fund and assist future students.”

The fund is named in honor of Larry’s late daughter, LeeAnne Burke ’02Ed, ’04GEd, who passed away in 2008 from bacterial meningitis. The scholarship is awarded each year to an incoming St. John’s freshman who graduated from St. Francis Preparatory High School, where LeeAnne worked as a Guidance Counselor.
“That was always LeeAnne’s goal: to do things for others,” Burke noted. “You know, the very morning that she passed, we called St. John’s and created that fund. I told my wife, ‘There are going to be 1,000 pieces of flowers that are going to get thrown in the garbage in the next two days, so we need to do something that’s truly meaningful.’”

After making his wedding contribution to the fund, Andrew – himself a teacher at JHS 194 in Whitestone, NY – was surprised to receive a letter from the 2012 scholarship recipient, freshman Marissa Ruotolo. It turned out that this young lady is the sister of one of Andrew’s students and had taken it upon herself to write a note showing her appreciation.

“That was a very emotional experience for Andrew,” Larry said. “He took a picture of the letter on his cell phone and sent it to me, and we were all flabbergasted by the whole thing. LeeAnne lived to help other people, so to see that note was really incredible.”

In her thank-you letter, Marissa comments on how much the scholarship means to her.

“I am eagerly anticipating the beginning of my college education at St. John’s University,” she writes. “I am truly blessed. I will continue to pray for you and your family throughout my college career.”

For Larry, Marissa’s note shows the very real impact that scholarships have on young men and women. And, most importantly, he believes the support of alumni and friends can impact more than just the students the scholarships directly benefit.

“Education is the future of this country,” Larry explained. “You never know who you’re going to help, just like you never know who’s going to become that next great teacher, or that next great scientist, or someone who will affect the future so drastically. It goes beyond the students and really makes our country and our world a better place.”

And what a fitting tribute to LeeAnne Burke, who dedicated her time at St. John’s and at St. Francis Prep to helping those in need. From organizing and leading service trips to helping her students receive scholarships, she always kept her focus on assisting others. 

“As a guidance counselor, she made sure that her students received scholarships to colleges they could afford,” Larry said. “For LeeAnne, it was truly all about helping others and the community, which is why this scholarship fund is so important to me and my family.”

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