John Burness Death, Obituary – John Burness, Chair of the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees reportedly died at the age of 77 on Monday, December 19, 2022. John Burness was a larger-than-life figure who had big goals for Durham Tech. He wanted the school to be the best it could be. He was adamant in his belief that the College was able to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals living in Durham and Orange counties because it had the potential to do so.
His leadership at both Duke University and Durham Tech reflected his dedication to maximizing the potential of institutions to improve the lives of individuals and to construct communities that are more treasured by the people who live in them. Specifically, he aimed to make Durham an even better place to live for the people who already called it home.
He had a soft spot in his heart for the students at Durham Tech and was aware of the blessing it was for our community to have such intelligent and compassionate instructors and staff. In addition to his dedication to the students of Durham Tech, he took great pride in the board of trustees, which he viewed as consisting of highly qualified and dedicated individuals.
He exuded warmth and was regarded and adored by many members of this society; he was known for his wit and charm. He was a character who emanated warmth. He passed away not too long ago. He was committed to his family as well as the basketball squad for Duke University and the baseball club for the New York Yankees. The absence of his leadership at Durham Tech will be keenly felt, and I will personally regret the loss of our friendship.
Burness was on the Board of Trustees for Durham Technical Community College from 2009 until 2022, and since 2017, he has served as the board’s chair. His term on the board lasted until 2022. He spent a total of forty years working in the field of higher education, with the last seventeen of those years spent at Duke University in the position of senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. During that time, he was appointed by three different university presidents.
During his tenure at Duke, he worked in the field of higher education. A former employee of the University of Illinois, Stony Brook University, and Cornell University, where he most recently held the position of vice president for university relations, he has previously held top roles in public affairs at each of these universities. In addition to that, he served as the interim president of the college he had previously attended, Franklin and Marshall.
Burness was an important figure in the growth of Duke University into an institution that is not just well known on a national level but also deeply ingrained in the culture of the city of Durham. The Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, which was founded in 1996 thanks in large part to his supervision, played an important role. This organization’s goal was to extend the opportunities available to residents of Durham in terms of homeownership, education, and access to medical care. Their target audience was the city’s working class.
He is survived by his wife Anne Williams, son Evan and daughter-in-law Katie, as well as their children Calvin and Ozzie; son Sam and daughter-in-law Danielle, as well as their children Cameron and Isabella; brother Andrew and sister-in-law Hope, as well as their children Alex and Molly; brother-in-law Michael Sundman, as well as his children Graham and Susanna; and great-nieces and great-nephews. He was married to Anne He shared his life with his wife, Anne Williams, for a total of 62 years.