TUSKEGEE, Ala. (February 13, 2012) — The Tuskegee University community lost a longtime supporter and friend on Sunday. Willie M. Burnett, director of the Office of Alumni Affairs, died at the Cedar Crest Nursing Home in Montgomery, Ala. Burnett, 70, served the university for 43 years and was a staunch supporter of alumni giving efforts.
A dedicated alumnus, Burnett gave abundantly to the university and established the Willie M. Burnett Endowed Scholarship Fund. He was a member of the Eminent Presidential/1000 Plus Associates. In October, he was among 29 Tuskegee supporters honored by Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon during the 130th Fall Convocation.
"During the more than four decades that Mr. Burnett labored on behalf of fundraising for his beloved alma mater, Tuskegee University, he evidenced an unsurpassed devotion and dedication to the university's alumni, its faculty, staff and especially its students and their athletic programs,” Rochon said. “He was a strong advocate for Tuskegee University and its surrounding community.”
Known by his colleagues as an engaging, kind and giving man with an encyclopedic mind for alumni knowledge, Burnett cultivated a large network of relationships with generations of former students.
“He was not only family to Tuskegee University, but to everyone in Tuskegee and who came through Tuskegee,” said alumnus and family friend Lionel Richie. “I will miss him as my friend and my brother.”
A native of Dozier, Ala., Burnett graduated from Tuskegee in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in education, and a Master of Education degree in guidance/counseling and student personnel services in 1968. As a student, he worked in the Office of University Advancement. He accepted a position in the Office of Alumni Affairs after completing his master’s degree.
“He always looked out for others and made us all feel so special,” said Kimberly Woodard, president of the Tuskegee National Alumni Association and the university’s associate vice president for development. “Mr. Burnett will truly be missed and we must continue his great legacy for Mother Tuskegee.”
Freddie Washington, president of the local chapter of the alumni association, described Burnett as “a wonderful individual” with an extraordinary ability to make people feel relaxed. He said Burnett’s personable style helped to unify alumni.
“He was an outstanding leader for the alumni,” Washington said.
During his tenure at Tuskegee, Burnett worked on fundraising efforts for the Tuskegee University Chapel memorial doors, renovation of White Hall, Legacy Brick Walkway and Booker T. Washington Society Brick Walkway. He served on several university committees such as the Miss Tuskegee University advisory committee, convocations committee and Tuskegee University National Athletic Association. He also served as executive director of the Tuskegee University National Alumni Association.
Burnett also served the Tuskegee community. His work included: the Macon County Personnel Board, Mayor’s Advisory Committee, Tuskegee Civic Association and Tuskegee Optimist Club.
A memorial service for Burnett will be held Friday at 6 p.m. in the University Chapel. The funeral will be on Saturday at noon, also in the chapel.
In lieu of flowers, the Burnett family has requested contributions to the Willie M. Burnett Endowed Scholarship Fund. Contributions can be mailed to: Tuskegee University, Office of Development, 324 Kresge Center, Tuskegee, AL 36088. Credit card payments can be arranged with Celestine Thomas at 334-727-8340.