George Davis Hall

Gift Establishes Endowed Chair in Modern Languages

Support for faculty position and language lab technology

July 31, 2009

Knox College has received a $1.5 million gift to establish a distinguished chair in modern languages. The Burkhardt Distinguished Chair in Modern Languages has been established by a generous gift from Dr. Richard W. Burkhardt and Dorothy Johnson Burkhardt, both 1939 graduates of Knox.

"With their most recent gift, Dorothy and Richard Burkhardt continue their history of seventy years of service and generosity to their alma mater," says Roger Taylor, president of Knox. Mrs. Burkhardt has served as a trustee since 1976 to 1990, when she was elected a life trustee. Dr. Burkhardt received a Knox College Alumni Achievement Award in 1974.

A professor is expected to be named to the Burkhardt Distinguished Chair at the opening of the 2010 academic year. Selection is made by the President in consultation with the Dean of the College and the Faculty Personnel Committee.

In addition, a separate $50,000 gift from the Burkhardts will go to renovate and upgrade the college's language lab facilities this winter. The Dorothy Johnson Burkhardt and Richard Burkhardt Lab for the Modern Languages in George Davis Hall will include state-of-the-art technology and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2010.

"These gifts reflect the high value Dr. and Mrs. Burkhardt and Knox College hold for modern languages in the liberal arts curriculum," adds Lawrence Breitborde, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.

Richard and Dorothy Burkhardt had strong ties to Knox even before enrolling. At the time he entered Knox, Mr. Burkhardt's uncle, Albert Britt, Class of 1898, was president of the college. Mrs. Burkhardt -- then Dorothy Johnson -- enrolled at Knox at the urging of her high school French teacher, Virginia Wilson, Class of 1921.

As undergraduates, both Richard and Dorothy were initiated into Phi Beta Kappa and were very involved students. He was a history major and member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity; she was a French and psychology major and member of the Phi Mu sorority. They met in their sophomore year, when Dorothy was elected class secretary and Richard class president.

Following graduation, Richard received master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. He served on the faculties of Syracuse University and Ball State Teachers College in Muncie, Indiana, which later became Ball State University. At Ball State, Dr. Burkhardt has been vice president and dean of faculties and professor of history. He also served as acting president. He retired in 1985.

Dorothy received a master's degree from Ball State University in 1958. She then served as an instructor of French, Spanish and Russian, also at Ball State, from 1958 to 1983. In 2002, she was awarded the Palmes Academiques by the French government recognizing her efforts to promote cross-cultural learning between France and the United States.

The Joseph and Clara H. E. Johnson Fund for Modern Languages, named for Mrs. Burkhardt's parents, was established in 1987. A portion of that gift will be used to support the new Burkhardt Distinguished Chair in Modern Languages. In 1990, the Edgar S. and Ruth W. Burkhardt Fund for History was established to honor Mr. Burkhardt's parents.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 47 states and 48 countries. Knox's 'Old Main' is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.