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tennessee technological university

TTU News

A recently renovated classroom in Tennessee Tech University's Johnson Hall conveys one local family's dedication to education and its admiration for its matriarch.

The recent dedication of The Christine Gilliam Burks Classroom served to highlight two celebrations: one in honor of a well-respected area businesswoman and one for the continued success of donor support for renovating TTU's College of Business signature building.

"My mother had very little formal education, but she educated herself through reading and experience and is recognized as an outstanding business person," said her son, Horace Burks. "By renovating the classroom and naming it after her, our family was able to show her our love and respect, and we were able to give back to the College of Business that has done so much for the community."

After her husband died in 1962, Burks began leading the operations of family businesses and grew them into successes. She made her mark in the real estate business, and served on the original board of directors for American Bank and Trust.

Her son says there are many lessons university business students can learn from his mother's example.

"She ran private businesses and was always successful and cost conscious," he said. "She grew up during the Depression, and like others of that time, always remembered what it was like not to have material things."

At the dedication, the 86-year-old Burks greeted neighbors, friends, business acquaintances and former employees whose relationships with her spanned more than 60 years. Last Christmas, her family presented their plans as a Christmas present to her.

"We are so pleased to offer the opportunity for a lasting gift to both the college and to a woman who shares her appreciation for business and education with future students," said Pat Quillen, TTU's College of Business director of development.

Johnson Hall, named after Louis Johnson, the founding dean of the college, was constructed in the late 1960s and early 70s. Thirty-something years later, the lack of funding for maintenance, new furniture and other updates had taken its toll. The Louis and Virginia Johnson Fund for Excellence was set up to help modernize classrooms, meeting areas and other spaces.

"To accomplish our goal, we must have additional private support to leverage the maintenance funds we have available from our operating budget," said Dean Bob Niebuhr. "We sincerely appreciate the Burks family's dedication to education and their gift of renovating this classroom."

For more information about contributing to the Johnson Fund or naming opportunities, contact Quillen at 372-3649.