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October 30, 2012

Alumna’s gift will benefit the sciences, athletics

Barbara Burger ’83 has committed $1 million to the University to support both academics and athletics. The gift will be used to create the Barbara J. Burger Endowed Scholarship in the Sciences, which will support one or more undergraduates each year in the pursuit of degrees in biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, or physics. In addition, Burger’s gift will ultimately support two endowed professorships in the chemistry department in the names of Richard Eisenberg, the Tracy Hyde Harris Professor of Chemistry, and Andrew Kende, professor emeritus, and it will support the Timothy G. Hale Endowment for Competitive Excellence in Athletics, which benefits the University’s cross country and track and field programs.

“Barbara Burger clearly shares the University’s commitment to developing students both in and out of the classroom,” says Joanna Olmsted, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “Her generosity will make a difference for generations to come.”

Burger, a vice president at Chevron Corporation, has a PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley. She believes it was all made possible by her experience at the University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1983.

Burger, who played field hockey and ran track and field as an undergraduate, says the University has always had a strong commitment to developing well-rounded students. Since Division III athletics are an important part of Rochester’s identity as a university, Barbara says she feels sports programs are deserving of commensurate support.

“The University of Rochester gave me my start,” Burger says. “It also got me into a good graduate school, and it gave me many of the tools I needed to figure out what to do later on in life.”

Burger discovered many of those tools while working in the chemistry labs of professors Richard Eisenberg and Douglas Turner. “My professors didn’t just teach chemistry, they provided mentoring and support,” she says. “And they got to know me as a person.”

For Burger, one incident, in particular, exemplifies the supportive environment at the University. During her third semester, she faithfully showed up for her 8 a.m. physics class without once being late—until the final exam. Burger’s alarm failed to go off that morning and, to the surprise of everyone in the room, she arrived 90 minutes into the exam. The professor handed her the test paper, and quietly said, “Do what you can in the remainder of the exam time, then come to my office and I’ll give you the 90 minutes extra.”

“Rather than sticking to the rules, he gave me a tremendous gift,” says Burger. “He showed me it was all about teaching and learning.”
Burger, who is still in touch with some faculty and continues to visit the campus, says, “It’s like I never left. And I now want to make sure other students have the same opportunities I did.”

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