The University of Virginia Oral History Project: Interviews with Gordon C. Burris

Author:Scarborough, Sheree

Biographical Statement
Gordon C. Burris was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1943. He received his B.A. from Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1965. In 1967, he received his master’s degree in physical education from the University of Virginia. Burris was named head soccer coach in 1966 for the University. He went on to work as head coach in tennis and golf; assistant dean of admissions; assistant director of the Alumni Association where he was part of the team that developed the Legacy Admissions Program and the Jefferson Scholarship Program; and, in fact, was the first director of Jefferson Scholars. In the late 1980s, he returned to athletics where he served as assistant athletic director and director of development for major gifts. He played a role in raising the money for the McCue Center and Klöckner Stadium. From 1989 to 1991, Burris was director of the Maryland Education Foundation at the University of Maryland. He returned to the University of Virginia in 1991 to serve as special assistant to President John T. Casteen III, a position he still holds with the current president Teresa A. Sullivan.

Interview Synopsis
Mr. Burris begins the interview with a description of his early years in Wilmington, and the impact of childhood experiences and mentors on his future life choices. He goes on to discuss his educational experiences at both Springfield College and the University of Virginia. He recounts some experiences in his early years of coaching and working in the Alumni Association with University legends such as Lou Onesty and Gilbert J. Sullivan, as well as work and travels with Dean of Admissions John T. Casteen III. Mr. Burris describes the genesis and development of successful University programs, including Legacy Admissions, Jefferson Scholars, Alumni Parents Committee, and Virginia 2020. He narrates his long career and relationship with Casteen, including his twenty-year role as special assistant to the president, and explores such topics as capital campaigns, successful donor and alumni relations, controversies that were weathered, and the significance of Casteen’s presidency on the University. The overall themes of Mr. Burris’s love of athletics and relationship building permeate his forty-seven year career at the University of Virginia and the oral history interview.

oral history, Gordon Burris, University of Virginia, UVa, UVaOHP, administration
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Source Citation:

Scarborough, Sheree. The University of Virginia Oral History Project: Interviews with Gordon C. Burris. University of Virginia, 2012.

University of Virginia
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University of Virginia

Conducted on March 5, March 6, and March 19, 2012 by Sheree Scarborough, History Associates Incorporated, Rockville, Maryland.