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age 89, passed away peacefully on June 16, 2019 at home in Mt. Lebanon, PA. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather; dedicated educator and decorated athlete. Dr. Burnett served as the tenth President of Washington & Jefferson College from 1970 to 1998.
Born on October 14, 1929 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Howie was the seventh of William and Bridget Burnett’s eight children. After Holyoke High School and a post-graduate year at Deerfield Academy (1948), he earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from Amherst College (1952), where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, twice named an All American soccer player, and received the Howard Hill Mossman Trophy and a Rhodes Scholarship. As a Rhodes Scholar, he studied at The Queen’s College, Oxford University (1954), completing B.A. and M.A. degrees in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Dr. Burnett received his doctorate in Government and International Relations from New York University (1965).
Dr. Burnett served in the U.S. Navy from 1954 to 1958, for which he was honored as a Distinguished Alumni of the Navy Supply Corps School in 2010. After serving in the Navy, he worked for Booz Allen & Hamilton, A. L. Ransohoff & Co. and Texaco. From 1962 to 1964, Howie was an assistant professor and Assistant to the President at Corning Community College. He spent the next six years as President of the College Center of the Finger Lakes, a consortium of public and private New York state colleges and universities.
On July 1, 1970, Dr. Burnett became the tenth President of Washington & Jefferson College, leading the college until his retirement in 1998. Entering W&J with its first class of women, he managed the college’s transition to coeducation, including the hiring of its first female faculty members and the election of the first women to the Board of Trustees. During his tenure, he guided the expansion and evolution of the college, including adding numerous buildings that are now integral to campus life, enhancing its academic calendar and programs, increasing enrollment, and substantially increasing the college’s endowment. He also served as a Civilian Aide to Secretary of the Army for Western Pennsylvania from 1978 to 1980.
Dr. Burnett also served on the governing boards of numerous businesses and charities, including Cyclops Steel, Washington Hospital and Pittsburgh Opera.
Howie always sought to create opportunities for people whenever possible, with deep caring, kindness and humor. His work inspired great respect and admiration, and his leadership in both professional and personal matters will be greatly missed. We dearly cherish his memory.
He was the loving husband of Maryann DePalma Burnett and the late Barbara “Binky” Burnett née Ransohoff. He is survived by his children, Lee (Tom) Berman, Sue (Chris) Petito, and Mark (Liz) Burnett, and his grandchildren, Michael, Alexandra and Reid Berman; Lucia (Mark Levin), Chris and William Petito; and Thomas (Caroline Stern), Daniel and Julia Burnett. He is also survived by his stepchildren, Carolyn DePalma, Diane (Hans) Lange and Robert (Angela) DePalma and his stepgrandchildren, Robert and Nicholas Lange, and Samantha DePalma. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews.
A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 28, 2019 at Saint Anne Church, 400 Hoodridge Drive, Castle Shannon, PA. A luncheon will follow at St. Clair Country Club, 2300 Old Washington Road, Upper St. Clair.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Howard J. Burnett 1952 Scholarship Fund at Amherst College, 220 South Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA 01002 or The Howard J. Burnett Presidential Scholarship Fund at Washington & Jefferson College, Development Department, 60 South Lincoln Street, Washington, PA 15301.
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