Farewell, Mark Burnett

After nearly 34 years, the associate vice president for Advancement says goodbye to SU

MarkBurnett_Feature
Story by: The Commons
Published: 2014-05-06

Mark Burnett, associate vice president, is leaving SU this month after three and a half decades of service to the university. Burnett will join Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., as senior director of campaign planning and communications. 

"During Mark's long tenure, he has provided strong leadership, communications expertise and extensive knowledge of SU and its alumni to grow and shape all aspects of University Advancement," wrote Michael Podlin, interim vice president for University Advancement, in an announcement to campus last week. "Mark is also a highly valued colleague across campus."  

Burnett's last day at SU will be May 15, and a farewell gathering will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Friday, May 9, in Casey Commons. He recently shared some thoughts on his time at SU and what's ahead for him. 

His first role at SU:   

I was hired as Director of Public Relations. At that time the Public Relations (Communications) Office had a staff of three, which gives you an idea of how the university has grown and changed. Shortly after I started, the Director of Alumni Relations left and I was asked to do both jobs on a temporary basis, which turned out to be for five or six years. Looking back now that doesn't seem like a very smart idea at all-for Seattle U or for me-but particularly for SU (laughs) . But I did enjoy it and am glad we did it. 

Biggest highlights from his time here:   

I feel very fortunate to have worked here for these many years, so there are many. As alumni director I had the chance to travel around the country for alumni gatherings and meet many wonderful grads and parents from Alaska to Washington, DC. Several years back I traveled  to the Middle East with Fr. Sundborg to meet with  alumni and donors there. And then I think of the people who have come to campus over the years whom I at least had the chance to meet briefly. Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Desmond Tutu stand out. Also, President George H. Bush (when he was VP), Ted Turner/Jane Fonda and Dan Quayle to name a few. Quite a list and interesting stories behind their appearances! Growing up, Elgin Baylor was my boyhood hero. I had his photos all over my bedroom wall as a kid. A few years ago he came to campus, visited my office and we talked. It was a thrill. I felt like I was nine years old again (sort of). 

What has brought him the most pride:   

I think a couple of things stand out. First, when I started in Alumni Relations Seattle U had just recently dropped Division I athletics, which was not popular with a number of alums. At that time almost all alumni programs were centered around sports. So, we had to develop a whole new approach to alumni outreach and involvement which I think laid a good foundation for our work. The other thing is being involved in the last major funds campaign. Our goal was to raise $150 million and we reached $169 million thanks to the leadership of Fr. Sundborg, Mary Kay McFadden and our very generous donors. It may not seem like a big goal when compared to our current campaign, but it seemed pretty daunting at the time, at least to me. As Fr. Sundborg has said, we needed to raise an average of $542,000 per week for six years to reach that total. The results were some very important new facilities and programs for the university. 

What he will miss the most about SU:

A cliché, but the people.  I've been able to get to know many alumni, parents and friends who deeply value SU, and are very supportive of this university. I've also had the opportunity to work with the Jesuits over the years which for which I am thankful. I worked closely with the presidents, Fr. Sullivan and Fr. Sundborg, and with some of the Jesuit legends on this campus as well-Fr. McGoldrick, Fr. Frank Wood, Fr. Royce, Fr. Maguire, Fr. O'Leary and others. And, of course, Fr. William LeRoux, who was a very close friend. And finally my co-workers in UA and across campus who are smart, dedicated and caring people. 

The biggest changes he's witnessed at SU since he started working here:   

There are many things, but I think the campus and facilities are the most striking. Back in the early '80s, I think it's fair to say this campus was a far cry from what it is today. It was not an attractive or impressive place, to be blunt. Today, when I talk with alumni who come back to campus for the first time after many years they are simply stunned. I think one thing that hasn't changed is the quality of our professors and the quality of teaching here. I hear this from alumni who graduated decades ago as well as more recent graduates. They often talk about the outstanding professors they had, teachers who truly challenged them but who also cared for them as individuals. 

What he'll be doing at Pacific University:   

Pacific is in the midst of a comprehensive fundraising campaign. My title will be senior director of campaign planning and communications and my role will be somewhat similar to my role here at SU during our last campaign. 

How he would complete the sentence "Seattle University is ________":

"…strong because of its diversity and unified by those who share a belief in the common good and working for others."


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