Burke is the state’s longest-tenured athletics director in the midst of his 17th year in charge of NSU Athletics. He will join a greatly accomplished list of recipients of the honor including iconic Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow, Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, the father-son NFL star tandem of Dub and Bert Jones, NSU alumnus and NFL receiving record-holder Charlie Hennigan, NFL standouts Joe Ferguson, Stan Humphries, Pat Tilley, and legendary high school coaches Charlie Brown, Chick Childress, Red Franklin, Lee Hedges, Bill Ruple and Don Shows since the award was created in 1981.
The other prestigious post-graduate award presented by the McNaughton Chapter, the “Distinguished American Award,” will go to Richard Wright, CEO of Advocare, a company founded by the late Charles Ragus, a former NSU football player. Wright’s leadership led to Advocare becoming the title sponsor of the Independence Bowl.
Several remarkable area high school senior football student-athletes will be recognized for outstanding achievement academically and competitively during the annual event. Table sales are available at $280 for a table of eight seats by contacting Toni Goodin at 318-347-4453.
The “Contribution to Amateur Football Award” was created by the New York City-based NFF to provide national recognition to an individual whose efforts and activities in support of the game of football have been outstanding in the local area.
The 56-year-old native of Alliance, Ohio, has received national acclaim for the job he’s done in his adopted hometown. He came to NSU as an intern under athletic director Tynes Hildebrand in 1985 and quickly was promoted to run the NSU Athletic Association as assistant athletic director, a post he held from 1986-92. He married Natchitoches native Susu Williamson, and they have an 18-year-old daughter, Catherine, a college freshman.
After four years as director of athletic development at Akron, Burke succeeded the retiring Hildebrand as NSU’s AD in late August of 1996. He has received honors such as being one of 29 Under Armour AD of the Year winners in 2010, and being one of three 2005 recipients of the All-America Football Foundation’s Gen. Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletic Director award.
Burke has been a featured speaker and panelist at the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors convention. He has been one of 49-members of the prestigious NCAA Championships/Sports Management Cabinet, and previous served four years (1999-2002) on the NCAA Division I Football Issues Committee while concurrently working on the eight-member NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Committee that administers the national Division I playoffs.
Three times in his tenure, NSU’s athletics program has been “fully certified,” the highest possible rating, by NCAA officials in their demanding certification process affirming Northwestern operates with substantial conformity with Division I’s highest standards.
Burke has overseen a long list of groundbreaking achievements, Southland Conference championships, NCAA post-season appearances, and academic successes, along with raising millions of dollars for department operations and major facilities improvements. NSU has led all 13 public institutions in Louisiana and as many as 12 Southland Conference members in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Success Rate studies.
In 2004-05, Northwestern became the only member institution to ever capture the Southland’s football, men’s basketball and baseball conference championships in the same year, a feat done only once in Southeastern Conference history and just four times in Big Ten Conference history.
Burke also created the “Great Tradition, Brighter Future” slogan for NSU Athletics, and launched the cornerstone principles for student-athletes: “Academic Achievement, Personal Responsibility, Competitive Success.”
He is a past president of the Natchitoches Kiwanis Club, a former Natchitoches Area Jaycee of the Year, and has been involved with the American Heart Association and was 2010 local chairman of the March of Dimes.