Tully, Kayle. “Dr Joseph Burger: A Rare Human Being” Lion’s Voice December 2007: 2
Dr. Joseph Burger: “A Rare Human Being.”
By Kaylee Tully
Dowling College has experienced a great loss. On the morning of November 12, 2007, Dr. Joseph Burger, Professor of Special Education, died in a car crash in Holbrook.
Dr. Burger, 61, was an education professor at Dowling College for 31 years and a highly respected colleague among his peers. As Dr. Clyde Payne, Dean of Education, said of him, “Dr. Burger was a kind man who went out of his way to help others.” Dr. Burger once wrote that he lived by the following philosophy of life: “That person is a success who brings out the best in others and discovers the best of self, who strives quietly to make his or her corner of the world a little bit better and more beautiful.” He applied this philosophy in his interactions with the students he taught and friends he made throughout his time at Dowling College.
“You would often ask him how he felt, and even though he had some health problems for the past year, he would say ‘Moreover, how do you feel,’” said Dr. Payne. “Dr. Burger had his own philosophy which he often expressed by the written word. He was well-respected by his colleagues, associates and students, and he will be very much missed.
Dr. Burger was born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, and taught in public schools in Queens and Comsewogue before becoming a full-time professor at Dowling College in 1975.
His professional education was impressive. He help a Ph. D. in Human Relations, and M.A. in Educational Psychology and Special Education, and a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy. He also undertook advanced pre-rabbinical studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Dr. Burger published an impressive amount of professional articles in forums such as Perceptions (the journal of the Association of New York State Educators of the Emotionally Disturbed) and Reclaiming Children and Youth, the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Problems. His caring persona enabled him to tackle sensitive matters in presentations, such as “Relationships—Honesty, Respect, and Trust,” “Being Different—Being Proud . . . On Being and Believing,” and “Healing Hearts and Broken Relationships.”
Dr. Burger was an active member of both Dowling and the surrounding community.
The following are organizations in which he was active: the Suffolk County Police Department Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program; the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention workshops; the United States Department of Education in Washington, DC; the Special Education Training and Resource Center; BOCES; Open House Riverhead Township School and Community Counseling Center, and the No More Hunger food pantry campaign.
He served as an Impartial Hearing Officer, presiding over disputes between parties involving school district committees on special education. He was certified to teach special education and also certified as a Humanist counselor. Dr. burger also worked as a counseling psychotherapist with the National Alliance for Family Life and the National Academy of counselors and Family therapists. Those who knew Dr. Burger were aware of his extremely giving persona.
“Joe did all of this and more. We will all miss him,” said Dr. Dave Ring, vice President for Student Affairs. “During his time here, Joe has been a teacher, mentor, counselor, and friend to thousands of Dowling students, employees, and alumni. His kind, loving and caring nature was always a comfort to those who knew him.” Most impressive was his optimistic view on life and his impact on those who knew him, said Dr. Ring: “He was a rare human being.”
Dr. Burger will continue to give. His wife of 14 years announced plans to start a scholarship fund in Dr. Burger’s name at Dowling College.