Prof. Ed Burger assumes presidency of Southwestern

Last Wednesday, Feb. 20, President Adam Falk sent out an all-campus e-mail announcing that the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Mathematics Edward Burger had been elected as the 15th president of Southwestern University, a liberal arts university just outside of Austin, Texas. Burger, who has been at the College since 1990, will officially begin his term as the president of Southwestern on July 1.

“I was drawn to Southwestern [University’s] mission and the people; the faculty, staff, students and alumni. It’s a wonderful and warm community,” Burger said. Burger earned much national recognition during his time at the College, including being named one of Microsoft Education Worldwide’s 2012 Heroes in Education, getting inducted in the inaugural class of American Mathematical Society Fellows and appearing on the Huffington Post’s list of 100 Game Changers.

Highlighting Burger’s impressive list of accolades is the prestigious Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, which is awarded biennially by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching. In addition to a personal award of $200,000, Burger earned $25,000 for the College’s mathematics department as a result of the honor.

Burger has also accomplished  a lot within the College community. One of the most visible initiatives that Burger has been involved with is the Gaudino option which, according to Burger, is “an on-going invitation for students to move beyond their intellectual comfort zone and embrace the true promise of the liberal arts.” In another project to highlight the liberal arts, Burger taught “EXPR 309: Exploring Creativity” in the fall of 2009, a class cross-listed under studio art, English, music and mathematics that spent time covering the creative aspect of each subject. “What an exciting future it will be for [Southwestern] and for Ed, who brings to this position not only his extensive experience at [the College] and elsewhere, but also his great passion for innovation in teaching and learning,” Falk wrote.

Through his online series of videos that cover a wide range of grade levels, Burger expanded his reach to help students across the nation in mathematics. “While selfishly I hope they would remember me in positive terms, the truth is I’m not the point,” Burger said. “The real point is how they have changed from their educational experience.” Burger has always maintained a focus on making mathematics exciting with his energetic teaching style, captivating students who have taken his classes. “He’s a wonderful match for Southwestern, with its dedication to the liberal arts, for which he’ll continue to be a forceful and creative advocate,” Falk said.

Burger has mixed feelings about leaving the College community. “On the one hand, I am excited and energized by the challenges and opportunities at Southwestern as well as the chance to innovate in the space of higher education,” Burger said. “On the other, leaving Williams after 22 wonderful, transformative and meaningful years is profoundly emotional for me.”

While Burger will be dearly missed at the College, it is clear that Southwestern will provide Burger with an incredible opportunity to do what he loves best: changing the lives of students. “I hope and believe that Southwestern will deliver that gift to its students [by] combining our strengths and talents in imaginative, innovative and creative ways to construct an even more meaningful and distinctive template for teaching, learning and growing in this new century,” Burger said.