South Burlington Rotary Club members honor Patrick Burke with the Frederick H. Tuttle Award. L-R: Past club president PJ Pfeifenberger, Jay Pasackow, Patrick Burke, current club President Sandy Walsh PHOTO: Lisa Levite

Burke Inspires South Burlington Rotary

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Friday December 12, 2014

Last Thursday, December 4, marked a twenty-year milestone for the South Burlington Rotary Club as long time member Jay Pasackow presented the 2014 South Burlington Rotary Frederick H. Tuttle Memorial Award to South Burlington High School Principal Patrick Burke. Club members, students, parents, fellow educators, two previous Tuttle awardees and grateful members of the community attended the holiday celebration at the Windjammer in South Burlington. The annual presentation of the Tuttle Award is a highlight of the club’s year when Rotarians and families join to honor the recipient and celebrate the gifts of being part of the vibrant South Burlington community.

It is particularly fitting that Burke received the Tuttle Memorial Award on this twentieth anniversary, as he, like Fred Tuttle, is a passionate and committed educator with an unwavering commitment to the school and to the community at large, who exemplifies the Rotarian ideal of “Service Above Self.” The honor is bestowed upon a person who embodies the principles and character of much beloved former teacher, educator, mentor and leader Frederick H. Tuttle.

Bruce Chatman, former South Burlington School District superintendent, who was fortunate enough to know and work with Tuttle, provided opening remarks about both Tuttle and Burke. Chatman described how Burke shares many of the same characteristics which made Tuttle such an effective leader and that he has continued “Fred’s legacy” in his character, openness, affection, concern and love for South Burlington students, our school and our community. It was a touching tribute to both men and an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate the South Burlington community has been, and is, to have these educators in its midst.
South Burlington resident and past club president PJ Pfeifenberger continued the tribute with remarks of a more personal nature, as he knows Patrick Burke best through their shared time on the ice in early morning hockey at the Cairns arena. With emotion in his voice, Pfeifenberger, who has a young son in the South Burlington schools, said “I want my son to have Patrick Burke for his principal.”

Pfeifenberger continued with highlights from the nomination:

Burke has served as an outstanding leader and advocate for the improvement of education at the local, state and national levels throughout his more than 13-year tenure at South Burlington. His professional achievements included recognition from the National Association of Secondary School Principals as Vermont Principal of the Year in 2006. He has inspired students, parents, residents and educational professionals to collaborate to improve not only teaching and learning but in the provision of service to the community. He collaborated with the local Veterans committee in the creation and dedication of South Burlington Veterans Memorial Park and the annual South Burlington Veterans recognition ceremony celebrated at SBHS.

As a result of his leadership and the many innovative programs implemented during Burke’s tenure, South Burlington High School has been recognized as one of the most outstanding high schools in Vermont.

“The true nature of the manner in which he has been successful is most evident in his simple acts of kindness toward students, families and individuals in need. Quietly and often out of sight of the public, Burke has again and again taken the time to support those most in need.”

Burke accepted the award with humility, gratitude and grace and was clearly moved by the magnitude of the recognition. He first thanked his wife Maria, acknowledging her supporting role in everything he is able to accomplish. He then proceded to display through his humble acceptance remarks and engaging story telling abilities why he is so well loved and respected. He mentioned his joy at being able to sit beside and have dinner with Bruce Chatman and thanked him for hiring him when he was a young “goateed” school administrator, and for supporting his “new” ideas in those early days. Burke acknowledged that Tuttle’s principles are imbued throughout the school, noting that not a week passes without something happening because of the legacy of Tuttle’s work and that it has been an honor to work in that environment. He turned the tables on those present, saying that the Rotary Club and its members are those who should be receiving the award for making South Burlington a great community. He thanked the club for all its efforts and mentioned a number of the major projects Rotary Club has supported from the Central School playground to the Veteran’s Memorial donation to the ongoing international Youth Exchange program.

And then he told a parable – on how to cure cancer. With humor and sincerity, Burke described the past year and its challenges as he struggled to learn why he wasn’t feeling well, and ultimately when his family faced his devastating diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma last spring. He relayed that he and his family were able to get through it with the love of the students, school body and community and the incredible outpouring of support that sustained them. His touching story ended with the statement that he is cancer-free, and that the love of the South Burlington community is what cured his cancer.

The evening ended on this high note and as Patrick and Maria Burke mingled with the guests upon leaving, one could not help but feel the strength and love of the South Burlington community radiating throughout the space.

About Frederick H. Tuttle and the SB Rotary Club Memorial Award

Fredrick H. Tuttle began his educational career in 1959 when, fresh out of Middlebury College, he taught Language Arts at Lyman C. Hunt Junior High School in Burlington.  After four years as a teacher, he became the assistant principal at Hunt and then was appointed to be the assistant at Burlington High School.  

In 1967, Fred Tuttle began his dedicated service as an educator in South Burlington when he was appointed as the first principal of the new South Burlington Middle School.  He was appointed Superintendent of the South Burlington School District in 1971, a position he held for more than 20 years until his death after a heroic battle with cancer in 1991.  After his death, South Burlington renamed the middle school in his memory as the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School.   

In 1993 the South Burlington Rotary Club recognized Tuttle’s contributions by naming him a “Paul Harris Fellow,” the highest recognition Rotary gives to non-Rotarians.  Subsequently, in 1994, the South Burlington Rotary Club established the Fred Tuttle Award in honor of Mr. Tuttle to recognize individuals who bring the same extraordinary dedication, integrity, and service to the community as Fred Tuttle did during his professional and personal life.  Throughout his career in South Burlington Tuttle maintained an unwavering commitment to the schools and to the community at large.  He was an exemplar as a colleague, mentor, leader, and citizen- in and out of school.

The criteria for the award derives from Tuttle’s example and includes high standards exhibited in the recipient’s personal and professional lives, recognition as a role model for others, and significant contributions to their vocation and to the community.  Most significant to this Club, award recipients exemplify the Rotarian ideal of “Service Above Self.”

The first recipient of the Fred Tuttle Award (1994) was Stuart “Red” Martin, founder and owner of WCAX-TV. Past recipients, in chronological order:

1994 Stuart “Red” Martin 2005 Pat Nowak
1995 Skip Farrell 2006 Tim Comolli
1996 Tom Hubbard 2007 Betsy Yung & Jerry McDougal
1997 Linda and Rene Leberge 2008 Susan Merrick
1999 Tony Cairns 2009 C.J. Knudsen
2000 Ted Manazir 2010 Todd Goodwin
2001 Peter Jacobs 2011 Judy Kearns
2002 Jim Condos 2012 Anne Corley
2003 Jake Cunevalis 2013 Jake Agna
2004 Fred Blais 2014 Patrick Burke

SOURCE: Penne Tompkins, Contributor