Looking back on the many accomplishments Pat Burman has achieved during his 35 years at Brescia, it is clear that creating connections between people has been a common denominator. By immersing himself in the Brescia and London communities, Pat formed professional and personal relationships with colleagues and students that extended outside of academia. He consistently encouraged ongoing, collaborative, interdisciplinary learning and empowered colleagues and students to do the same. By encouraging academics to engage with the community he brought this interaction full circle by bringing the community to the classroom. Pat’s ability to bring faculty, students, and community together has resulted in the exchange of ideas that will continue to benefit Brescia and London after he has gone.
Pat’s academic involvement has extended beyond the classroom in many ways. His interaction with fellow colleagues has been exemplary. Throughout his time at Brescia, Pat co-ordinated a colloquium at Brescia which ran for 13 years, which is unusual for this kind of group. On four or five Friday afternoons during the year faculty members presented their research, usually topped off by a friendly discussion. In addition, Pat co-founded the Qualms (Qualitative Methods) group, which gathered professors from Brescia, King’s, and main campus each month to exchange ideas on qualitative inquiry in the human sciences. In the Colloquium series and Qualms, Pat saw Brescia as a great platform from which to do interdisciplinary work with other faculties. “The beauty of a small college is you don’t just talk with people in your department. The spirit of interdisciplinary discourse is palpable.”
Pat’s connectedness with colleagues did not only occur on an intellectual plane — his thirst for knowledge was evident in how he spent his leisure time. Pat was a reader in the Ursuline Sisters’ puppet productions of dramas by Shakespeare, Wilde, Aristophanes, and others. Known for being a lover of language, Pat found it not only “an honour to speak Shakespeare’s words,” but also a pleasure to share these words with others. Cherishing memories of working with the sisters, Pat says, “Not only were the plays good, but they were events that created bonds and connected people from Brescia, Western, and the London community.”
Creating connections between the academic world and the community has always been on Pat’s agenda. Believing in the importance of vital community learning, Pat co-founded, along with Lisa Jakubowski, the Community Development program with the goal of creating a “a kind of scholarship and relationship with the community that is engaged…scholarship that is put to the service of community people.” In addition to engaging academia with the community, Pat has been able to get the community to engage with academia. Inspired by knowledge gained while authoring two books on unemployment and poverty, as well as the caring spirit of the Ursuline Sisters, Pat co-organized the Social Hope Conference with Sister Patty McLean in 1997 to reach out to women in poverty. By bringing faculty, students, social workers, and women struggling in our community together, academics and community members were able to learn from each other. Academics learned how to help those struggling with poverty, nutrition, and general wellness in practical ways; struggling women gained practical tools from workshops and dialogues, which were successful in empowering them to help themselves.
With his official retirement set for June of 2012, Pat will be on sabbatical before his time with Brescia is officially over. While next year will bring an end to his career at Brescia, he is far from being finished with academics. Pat will be leaving Brescia and London to go back to his hometown of Montreal. When questioned about his plans for the future, Pat hopes to become “an independent scholar and writer without the trappings of the institution” and to “find the routes that I wanted to take through my earlier life and see if they are still paths worth travelling.” Judging by his thoughtful nature, one can only assume that these paths will lead towards a new intellectual adventure.