Durham school's science center named for Duke official

Posted May 29, 2008

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— E.K. Powe Elementary School will honor John Burness, who is retiring June 30 from his post as Duke’s senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, by naming the school’s science center for him.

A naming ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at E.K. Powe.

Durham Public Schools Superintendent Carl Harris and E.K. Powe science teacher Treva Fitts will speak at the event, along with several of the school’s students.

The school’s science center will be named for Burness in honor of his leadership in building a strong partnership between Duke and the Durham Public Schools. Burness led a campaign that raised nearly $270,000 for the science center, which opened in 2001.

“John Burness has been one of Durham Public Schools’ very best friends over the past two decades, as he has sought to find ways to deepen and enrich our students’ learning experiences through many different avenues,” Harris said. “Through the years, John has enthusiastically supported our mission by securing untold resources – both human and monetary – with the ultimate outcome being better equipped schools, more fully prepared teachers and increased achievement for thousands of students.”

At Duke, Burness was instrumental in establishing the nationally recognized Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, through which the university has established partnerships with 12 neighborhoods near its campus and the seven public schools and one charter school that serve them, including E.K. Powe.

Since 1996, Duke has raised more than $16 million through the Neighborhood Partnership to support youth development and K-12 education, affordable housing, community-based health clinics and non-profits serving partner neighborhoods. The partnership also has significantly expanded the number of Duke students, faculty and staff engaged in the life of Durham.

The 1,600-square-foot John Burness Science Center was built with major support from the Annenberg Foundation, Duke University, Durham Public Schools, Home Depot and the Museum of Life and Science. The facility is used to teach students during the academic year, and as a professional training ground for elementary teachers throughout the Durham school system.

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  • mrduffin May 29, 2008

    Are we putting the cart before the horse here? Did Burness make Duke great or did the caliber of students and most of its faculty and its renown from its basketball team? Seems to me he was lucky to be at the University when he was. Not a tough job until the Duke Lacrosse hoax.

    What exactly were the accomplishments developed and guided by Burness? Setting up committees without any identifiable effects is hardly an accomplishment. Certainly it is fairly evident that the Duke/Durham committee did little good in relations when Duke could exact no influence in curbing racist behavior against its own students.

    Excuse me for asking for the details, but it would appear that his position would require one to have handled the Duke Lacrosse travesty with aplomb, not like a bungling .... "Behind the scenes" activities by Burness during a period of relative peace and prosperity by the University apparently had little effect during the crisis and is hardly worth congratulations.

    He failed the