Mr. Burks: building a legacy

Whether you knew it or not, if you have studied in the renovated Academic Commons, received support in the Scanlan Learning Center, enjoyed a meal in Querbes Hall or even taken a swim in the pool, then you have been directly and meaningfully impacted by Mr. Steve Burks, the Director of Building and Grounds for over forty years. On Jan. 27, Mr. Burks tragically passed away at the age of 65 after a long-fought battle with cancer. A steadfast presence in the community, Mr. Burks was respected and beloved by all he worked with, and his dedication to bettering the Viator community was clear to all who knew him.
“Everywhere you go in this building, it is something that Mr. Burks helped to create,” said Dean Deborah Scerbicke, who knew Mr. Burks for over twenty years. “He was more than a janitor. He was the one who made everything run. He was the ultimate behind the scenes guy.”
On Feb. 4, students, teachers and staff members gathered in solidarity to watch Mr. Burks’ funeral procession make its way through the front parking lot. This event was optional, yet that did not stop students from packing all sides of the parking lot in solidarity and in mourning of a man who embodied the values of the Viatorian mission.
“I’ve been here 22 years, and that was the most awesome experience I have ever seen at St. Viator,” said Dean Scerbicke. “What [the students] did, by honoring someone they did not know, was the most moving moment I’ve ever had at this school. They may not have known him, but they paid a worthy tribute to him.”
Mr. Burks’ dedication to serving the best interests of the school left an incredible mark on the student body, even when his work went unseen. Whether he was marking meter lines or fixing tables in the science labs, creating the school’s emergency plan, or even allowing students to test and choose seating options during the renovation of Querbes Hall, Mr. Burks truly was an indispensable force within the community.
“Seeing the funeral procession was a very touching moment,” said senior Ricky Anesi. “I feel like the [building and grounds] staff in particular are very underappreciated, so it was great that we got to return the favor to him in a small way.”
Through his extensive projects, Mr. Burks is remembered in the meaningful spaces he created on campus for the student body, many of which were done out of the sheer kindness of his heart.
“I have had multiple study halls in the Commons during my time here and love having a comfortable environment to work and study for tests in,” said senior Paige Dzierzak. “I have also had the chance to spend time in the weight room, which has greatly benefitted my health and improved my performance in sports.”
It is not only the remarkable campus renovations and development projects, but also the long lasting relations he fostered and his altruistic spirit, which demonstrate Mr. Burks’ immense career and personal legacy.
“He became a friend, not just a coworker,” said science teacher Mrs. Cate Majka, a dear friend of Mr. Burks for thirty-two years. “We looked at things the same way. If I ever needed to talk, he would be there. He went out of his way to try to be a good friend.”
“I got to know him because I am one of the first teachers in the school every day, and he was always there with his cup of Dunkin coffee to chat with me and other teachers and staff,” said English teacher Ms. Jamey Miller, who knew Mr. Burks since August 2017. “ He was such a wonderful and kind man.”
Mr Burks did all things with great joy, passion, and humility. A United States Navy veteran, Mr. Burks lived a life dedicated to service and consistently placed the needs of others above his own. He is remembered as a man who fought for students’ best interests and put in tireless efforts to make the school feel like a home.
“Steve would have done anything for the students,” Mrs. Majka said. “He was one of the most positive people that I knew, and he was always behind the scenes. He was never trying to grab any glory, and he was always there whenever you needed him.”
“It may surprise students to know how much he cared about their education,” Ms. Miller said. “He really wanted to get the kids back in school and worked hard to make sure we could learn in person instead of online last year.”
Mr. Burks’ legacy continues to live on ardently in the hearts of students, faculty members, and all community members who had the honor of knowing him or being touched by the impact of his passion for bettering the world around him. From Mr. Burks’, we can all learn to live in ways that are rooted in love, solidarity, and a strong mission to leave our corners of the world better places than when we first found them.