In the fall of 2004 I started working in the president’s office as a student worker. I had no idea how my future would be transformed by taking that job.
For the last seven years I’ve worked in a more formal role as the assistant to president. Every day provided an obstacle, but it also provided an opportunity to learn something new. At the core of my learning experience was Dr. David Burks. He would allow me to sit in on meetings I had no business being in, make presentations on behalf of Harding, and even sit at the table for strategic planning. I had a front row seat to the inner-workings of higher education.
Before working with Dr. Burks, I had no intention of being involved in higher education as a career. His patience with me and determination to teach me what he knew about higher education is something I will never forget. I am in higher education today because of him. His passion for teaching and shaping young adults is carried on through many people; I am included in that number.
His guidance and mentorship has meant the world to me. He taught me about leadership in a very tangible way. There was no need for conceptual discussion because he put me right in the middle of situations that would stretch and mold me into a leader. Dr. Burks genuinely loved coming to work each day. There were some days that may have been less desirable than others, but he chose to lead by example and pushed through the hard times with little if any complaining. I cannot think of a better mentor than a senior executive who loves what he does; David Burks was that for me.
The most valuable piece of advice he ever gave me is to “In all things keep your faith strong. Do not let the job take such a toll on your life that you put your relationship with God on the back-burner Stressful situations in the workplace will come and go, but God will always be there for you; do not neglect your relationship with Him.” This advice is representative of how he fulfilled the role of president and how he became an instant leader to those he came in contact with.
June 1, 2013 will be a marker on his career as president, but not the end of his leadership by any stretch. This post does not even scratch the surface of the amount of respect I have or the gratitude I owe David Burks. He is and will continue to be a dear friend and mentor. Working with him over the past 9 years has made a profound impact on my life, it has truly been transformational.