In Memory

William Burgess

William (Bill) Burgess, long-time European Division faculty member, died in mid- April  2017 in Austin , Texas after a short illness.   He was in his middle 90’s.  Bill taught science courses, including geology and astronomy, in the Bitburg/Spangdahlem/Hahn region in the 1980’s and 1990s and was living and teaching more recently in the UK.  He will be remembered for his quick sense of humor and was a valued traveling companion to many of the Maryland faculty.  Memories can be posted on the OMA web site.  Condolences may be sent to his daughter Rita at  (She is in Austin)

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05/02/17 11:23 PM #1    

Richard Schumaker

             It is with great sadness that I learn of the passing of Bill Burgess.  As I write from Metropolitan Washington this evening in the spring of 2017, I remember perfectly well meeting, getting to know, and finally saying so long to Bill and his wife as they left Germany for the UK, and I prepared to leave Germany for the United States. 


              When I met Dr. Burgess, he was starting a second career as an educator.  We were teaching at the large and active USAF bases in the Hunsrück and the Eifel, Hahn, Spandgahlem, and Bitburg.  Bill quickly established himself as serious professor with an enormous range of courses and expertise in essentially the whole range of physical and biological sciences.  We often taught in adjacent classrooms and discussed politics, UMUC, World War II, and European culture.  Bill’s students respected him enormously for his knowledge, even keel, and fairness to all.


            Little by little, I got to know him much better.  I used to take groups of military students to Paris, Great War battlefields, and other historical sites near Hahn and the other bases.  I remember so well one day when he approached me and modestly asked me if he could come to Paris with my group. I was honored to have him with us and spent a long weekend with him and the group visiting the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and Sacré Coeur.  Throughout the weekend, we had excellent conversations about French Catholicism.  I also realized during this trip how attached he was to the history of music and how well he knew a great deal of Mozart’s works.


            About a year later, my relationship with Bill changed somewhat, deepening.  Enormous changes were occurring in the Eifel and the world as the Cold War came to an end.  A whole period of American life was closing.   Bill, who had had direct experience of World War II, was deeply affected by these changes.  I was also touched when his very gracious and intelligent wife Elizabeth started to take my philosophy and Shakespeare courses.  This gave the three of us a focus to discuss relationships and life in depth.


            During these world historical events, my two sons were born and my discussions and relationship with Bill and his wife took another turn, as he helped me deal with the challenges of fatherhood.  I remember him not being in the least surprised when I could adeptly change a crying baby’s diaper. “I always knew you could do this,” he said on a sunny fall day outside of Hahn AB when Marc was about three months old.  He may have been the only one.


            Contact become more difficult as my life got more complicated—teaching not just for UMUC but also co-editing a magazine, teaching for the local German university, writing for a UNESCO magazine, and beginning the transition back to the US.  I value every moment I spent with Bill and his wife; both were intelligent, well informed, kind, and above all alive to all the possibilities in life.  Sharing time and events with them made one a better, more thoughtful person.   


Richard Schumaker

Bethesda, MD

May 2, 2017





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