University of Pittsburgh biologist Burgess is new AVP

By Patricia Delaney
Acting Director of Public Affairs

David R. Burgess, professor and chairman of the highly respected department of biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, will become Boston College's next academic vice president and dean of faculties on Aug. 1.

Burgess replaces William B. Neenan, SJ, who has held the position since 1987. Fr. Neenan will assume new responsibilities as vice president and assistant to the president, following a sabbatical.

David R. Burgess (right) with Monan Professor of Law Daniel Coquillette at a June 9 reception where Burgess was introduced to faculty.
"It is with a sense of excitement and confidence that I welcome Dr. David Burgess to the Boston College family as our chief academic officer," said Boston College President William P. Leahy, SJ, in announcing the appointment. "His achievements as teacher, researcher and administrator make him an excellent choice to lead Boston College's academic enterprise. He has broad experience in undergraduate and graduate education and he cares deeply about students and faculty. David is a person of great integrity and I know he is committed to the academic mission and the Jesuit, Catholic character of Boston College. David will be a welcome addition to the Boston College community and I believe he will become a significant contributor to the Greater Boston academic scene, as well."

Burgess has a strong and varied background in administration, research and teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Since 1990, he has served as chair of the biological sciences department at the University of Pittsburgh and is credited by observers with bringing that department into the ranks of the nation's finest.

The author of numerous publications, Burgess is noted for his advocacy of faculty excellence in undergraduate and graduate teaching as well as scholarship, and for his commitment to faculty recruitment and development.

Among his achievements at the University of Pittsburgh was the development of a mentoring program for junior faculty that has been called "outstanding" by colleagues. He has a strong appreciation for and commitment to the enhancement of faculty and student diversity, as well as to the involvement of undergraduate students in scholarship and research activities, and the development of academic and professional advisement programs at the undergraduate level.

Burgess also is widely respected for his abilities in administration and fundraising; at the University of Pittsburgh, he was the architect of a proposal for an upgrade of undergraduate education that received $1.7 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

"Boston College's administrative team, and its faculty, students and alumni, have created one of the pre-eminent institutions in the country and I am looking forward to joining this exceptional community," said Burgess. "But more than that, BC's plan for the future, 'Advancing the Legacy,' is an exciting and carefully thought-out guideline for enhancing an already strong institution. I am confident that BC is poised to join the elite universities in the country through well-considered investments in its academic mission."

Burgess added that future enhancements to the academic program would "advance the critical role of graduate and professional education without diminishing Boston College's outstanding tradition of high quality undergraduate education" and "would strengthen the University's distinctive mission to serve society."

He added that he would bring to Boston College a commitment to high quality scholarship by faculty, "which I believe must be integrated with the mission to provide quality education," a commitment to engage students in scholarship, and a commitment to an increasingly diverse community.

"Fr. Leahy, the members of the search committee and others have made me and my family already feel welcome to the University. I am confident that the future is bright for all of us at BC and I look forward to working with the entire community," he said.

Burgess will assume responsibility for an academic enterprise that has gained increasing national distinction over the past decade. Boston College today is ranked among the top 20 undergraduate teaching universities and among the top 40 national universities overall by US News & World Report , which also ranks the University's professional schools of education, law, nursing and social work among the nation's top 25.

Burgess also will be responsible for the execution of a strategic plan designed to advance Boston College into the new millennium. Last fall, Fr. Leahy announced a major initiative to bring the University to the next level of academic excellence: a $260 million investment designed to to enhance faculty programs, facilities and student financial aid.

According to Monan Professor of Law Daniel Coquillette, who led the search committee, "This is an extraordinarily strong appointment and one which has the complete and unanimous support of a very broad-based search committee. Dr. Burgess is a distinguished scientist of the first order. He is a leader in funded research at one of the leading research universities in the nation; he has obtained tremendous external recognition and funding for the University of Pittsburgh program - and he has achieved this distinction for graduate education while at the same time impressing this committee with his commitment to undergraduate teaching.

"Dr. Burgess also has been a leader in the advancement of opportunities for minority students in the United States," Coquillette added, "as well as a moral and spiritual leader at the University of Pittsburgh."

Prof. Amir Hoveyda (Chemistry), a member of the search committee, added, "I believe that David Burgess has what it takes to lead the academic program at Boston College to where it deserves to be, which is among the finest in the country. He single-handedly led the development of the University of Pittsburgh biological sciences department into one of the top programs in the country. One of the important elements of his leadership has been the ability to identify quality, as evidenced in the faculty appointments at both the senior and junior levels which enabled his department to attain that stature."

"Dr. Burgess' clear commitment to both teaching and scholarship certainly will advance Boston College's mission to integrate first rate research with excellent teaching," said Prof. Mary Walsh (SOE), another search committee member. "His explicit commitment to social justice will ensure that the knowledge we seek and gain as a university will contribute in meaningful ways to the quality of human life."

Prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh, Burgess served as associate professor and then full professor of cell biology and anatomy at the University of Miami School of Medicine from 1982 to 1990. From 1976-1982, he served as assistant professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College. He also has served as instructor of invertebrate embryology at the Shoals Marine Laboratory at Cornell University from 1979-1981, as a member of the University of Miami School of Medicine Cancer Center from 1982-1990, as an instructor of physiology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. in 1987 and 1988, and as a member of the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute since 1990.

Burgess received bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from California State Polytechnic University in 1969 and 1971, respectively, and a doctoral degree in zoology from the University of California/Davis in 1974. He was an National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the Friday Harbor Laboratories at the University of Washington from 1974-1976.

The author or co-author of numerous scientific journal articles, books and chapters, Burgess also has written on educational policy issues, including an article in the Journal of NIH Research in 1996 regarding opportunities for minority students in graduate education. Also, his article "Barriers to Graduate School for Minority-Group Students" appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 1997.

A member of the Society for Developmental Biology, Burgess is a recipient of the NIH Research Career Development Award and has made scientific presentations at various national and international meetings.

He also is president-elect of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, and is a past member of the American Society for Cell Biology's Minority Affairs Committee.

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