Kinesiology prof remembered for research, teaching, service

by Justin Ware

The University lost a versatile professor, and the students a unique leader, when Allen Burton, a University kinesiology professor, died Thursday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 47.

Joanne Burton, his wife of 18 years, said his warm and powerful leadership was evident at home with his sons Eric, 15, and Mark, 12.

“He gave the freedom for (the boys) to be their own individuals,” she said.

Joanne said that despite Burton’s love of sports medicine, he never pressured his boys into activities.

Burton has been with the University since 1986. He received his doctorate in physical education and human movement studies from the University of Oregon in 1984 and his master’s and bachelor’s in kinesiology from the University of California-Los Angeles.

“He was the first person I hired,” said Michael Wade, director of the University’s kinesiology department.

Wade said Burton was thought of as a “triple-threat professor,” meaning he excelled in research, teaching and community service.

“He was an incredible person,” Wade said, “one of those guys who got along well with everybody.”

Burton had several works published and was highly involved in the sports medicine community. In 2000, Burton became president of the North American Federation of Adapted Physical Activity.

“He taught by experience,” his wife said.

Joanne said she was always missing items from home because Allen would bring just about anything – from pots and pans to his guitar – in to add color to his curriculum.

“He would do weird things to teach just to make the experience fun,” she said. “He didn’t just feed the students information, he challenged them.”

Joanne told the story of a graduate class Allen taught: The first day of class he promised everyone an ‘A’ regardless of performance. She said it was a class of future teachers, and he felt that it was important for them to have a firm grip on the material so they could teach others.

“He wanted to take the stress off the letter grade and focus on learning the material,” Joanne said.

As promised, every student received an ‘A.’

Allen was also interested in sharing his faith with others, but in a subtle way, Joanne said: “He was very much a Christian,” and demonstrated his spirituality “not by pushing his faith, but how he lived his life.”

Burton is survived by his wife, two sons, his sister Joyce Ostrowski of South Carolina, brother Richard and his parents William and Ruth of California.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Maple Grove Covenant Church, 9350 Upland Lane.


Justin Ware covers administration, faculty and staff and welcomes comments at [email protected]