With 27 years of service working at the University of Arizona, Melinda Burke '75 '81 recently announced her retirement from the presidency of the Alumni Association.
“It is hard to walk out … and say I am done, it never happens that quickly,” Burke said.
Burke started working at the UA since 1993 and joined the UA Alumni Association in 2011. She accepted her first job as a PetSmart professor of practice under UA's Retailing and Consumer Sciences program thinking that it would be for a short period of time, but it turned into 27 years.
Burke explained that she went in the job thinking as a great opportunity for her to be impacted by the university and the people she got to work with. But she never thought she would be the one who would impact other people’s lives.
“For me, it was a dream job,” Burke said.
The day before Burke's official last day on July 1, the UAAA staff organized a retirement parade in Burke’s honor. According to Burke, there were around 40 cars go by with people from the university, the office, athletics and admissions who drove by her home to say goodbye.
“That was such as perfect way to end because I got to see a lot of people that mean so much to me and say goodbye to them,” Burke said. “It was very emotional … it was great.”
Burke considers herself an enthusiastic, caring and strategic person who loves and respect sports, an important aspect of the UA experience. Burke said sports reflected her competitive side and her desire to continuously improve.
“I love UA athletics. I am a big fan of women’s basketball; I am big fan of women’s softball and of course I am a huge fan of all sports,” said Burke.
With a love for competitions, Burke saw herself as a naturally competitive person who has implemented a competitive development system into her life to accomplish her goals.
“Anything I do in life I look at how do I be better, how do I make it better, how do I achieve goals, how do I beat myself,” Burke said.
For 27 years, Burke has touched the life of many people in the university from students to staff members.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who did make a difference, as someone who did impact the lives of students at the university as well as our alumni,” Burke said.
Burke further explained her goal.
"I wanted [alumni] to be like the university was a partner for them in their lives," Burke said.
Marc Acuña, vice president of Student and Alumni Engagement, said that working with Burke and her stylish leadership style had been an honor.
“[Burke] leads with complete compassion, empathy and innovation,” Acuña said via email. “I will for sure miss the fashion and style she brings. She is a mix between Jackie O. and Coco Chanel with her sophistication and on point style.”
Felicia Frontain, assistant professor of practice in Retailing and Consumer Sciences, met Burke in the 1980's when they were in retail together at the UA. Frontain described Burke as a fun person with a sense of humor.
“She is always in a positive mood … She always pushed me to do better and I am grateful for that,” Frontain said via email.
For Alan Stein, a member of the UAAA governing board and veteran, Burke was unique, a leader and a great manager who helped him to reinforce the fact of always being professional because it gives great results.
“[Burke] is the ultimate professional,” Stein said in an email.
Besides her success as the UAAA president, Burke mentioned that having the opportunity of impacting students’ lives by either helping them to discover their dream job, find their partners or internships was very rewarding.
“Being a faculty member and have that kind of impact in students is really meaningful,” Burke said. “I hope [the university] remember me as an effective leader.”
Stein said that Burke inspired loyalty and she was good communicating her vision well with others from the lower to the higher position levels. Stein also admired Burke as a person.
“[Burke] is a terrific person,” Stein said in an email.
While Burke was the Alumni Association president, the UAAA accomplished many things. They started the Bear Down Network and the Wildcat Mentor Society. Both with the purpose to help current students and alumni.
Burke was not going to sit down after her retirement from UAAA, she already has a lot of plans. As a right now, she and her husband decided to go out and explore the world. In the middle of August, she is planning to be back in town where she got a lot of stuff going on.
Burke wants to be more politically active; she plans to continue to be a mentor for the Wildcat Mentor Society and she will do some volunteer working with the Literacy College.
“I am going to open to new opportunities and new challenges," Burke said, "and I am very excited about the future.”
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