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Dr. Robert D. Burns Celebration of Life - Event Recap

On September 28th, a Celebration of Life  service for Dr. Robert D. Burns (1929-2019) was held at the Delta Tau Delta Lodge. Known to many on campus as “Doc Burns,” Burns arrived at Kenyon College in 1963 as a professor of biology. Doc Burns was eventually chosen by Chi Chapter as their faculty advisor in 1974. For almost 30 years, Doc Burns served as faculty chapter advisor. Upon his retirement in 1992, Kenyon awarded Doc Burns emeritus status and an honorary Doctor of Science degree. In 2010 he served as campaign chairman of the Securing Our Future capital campaign.

His abiding influence over Chi was recognized in 2010 by Delta Tau Delta when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Citation, of which only 450 have been awarded in the entire history of the Fraternity.  In June 1982, Doc Burns was awarded the William J. Fraering Award.  Doc was the 2nd recipient of the Fraering Award which is presented to young Delta Tau Delta alumni who have demonstrated outstanding service to the Fraternity. 

Though Doc Burns probably protested as he wouldn’t have been that young in 1982, he was still within 15 years of his initiation thus making him a young alumnus.  The Fraering Award is named after former Fraternity president Bill Fraering who was tragically shot on his doorstep by thugs at his home in New Orleans. In 2010, Chi Chapter further recognized his contributions to the chapter when alumni created the Robert D. Burns Endowed Scholarship in his honor. Two scholarships are awarded to deserving members of Chi Chapter each school year.

Numerous family members, alumni, students, and all current Chi active members attended the service. Burns’ wife, Jeanette Burns, stated how happy and hopeful she was to see so many people attend the service. Speakers at the service included Delt alums Bill Montei ‘75, Dick Parke ‘76, and Jim Kuhn ‘76, who remembered when Doc Burns first became faculty advisor for Chi chapter. Many recalled the fond memories of Doc Burns, from his passion for ornithology to his care as well as consideration for ecology and the brothers of the fraternity. The Chapter was also honored by the presence Jack Kreman, CEO of Delta Tau Delta, paying his own respects to Doc Burns and his legacy. Additionally, Chi actives led a series of songs in honor of Doc Burns, including “Delt Shelter” and “Auld Lang Syne.”

Doc Burns is survived by his wife,  two children, and many grandchildren. A commemorative plaque was recently installed on the entrance of the Lodge to let the world know of Doc Burns’ service to Kenyon College, Chi Chapter, and Delta Tau Delta.


Jon Hammond ‘20

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