Robert Burns

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dr. Robert Allen Burns, 75, of Cape Girardeau died Monday, Dec. 12, 2011, at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston, Mo.

He was born Nov. 16, 1936, in Neodesha, Kan., the elder son of Francis and Treva Lee Burns. He married Linda Lee Lattin on Aug. 17, 1968, in McPherson, Kan.

Bob graduated from Neodesha High School in 1954, attended Independence (Kan.) Junior College, and graduated with a bachelor of science in education degree in English from Emporia (Kansas) State University in 1958. After teaching English in high schools in West Mineral, Kan., and Eldorado, Kan., he enlisted in the Navy where he attended Officer Candidates School and served as lieutenant junior grade in both the Atlantic and Pacific, instilling his love of travel. Following discharge, he returned to Emporia to attain a master of arts in English and the love of his life, Linda.

He then taught at Wyandotte (Kansas City, Kan.) High School before beginning to teach at Southeast Missouri State University in 1966. In his 35-year career at Southeast, he taught 26 different undergraduate and graduate courses and seven additional graduate seminar topics. He earned a Ph.D. in English literature from St. Louis University in 1974. He was a published poet himself, and he served as general editor of The Cape Rock, a poetry journal, for seven years. He obtained national recognition and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the redesign of that journal. He was the university's first director of writing assessment and its first associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He also served as acting chairman of the Department of English from 1985 to 1986 and as interim chairman from 1994 to 1995.

After retiring as professor emeritus in 2001, Bob and Linda enjoyed traveling abroad to Egypt, China, Peru, France, the Baltic countries, France, central Europe and the Mediterranean. Bob enjoyed all kinds of games, the more complicated the better, but especially chess and bridge. To the dismay of his wife, he was an inveterate collector: games, coins, comic books, CDs, DVDs (and more DVDs). His sense of humor could be risque, his puns could be real "groaners," but his gentleness and fairness were beloved by all.

Bob had played trumpet in his high school band, and his first major in college had been theater. Music and the theater became lifelong interests. For years, he and Linda held subscriptions to the St. Louis Symphony and Opera Theater of St. Louis. They traveled frequently to New York to attend plays, musicals and opera (and their favorite chocolate shop). When the River Campus opened, they were regular attendees of performances. Bob truly enjoyed the arts as well as grubbing in the dirt to plant daffodils.

Survivors include his wife, Linda Burns of Cape Girardeau; his brother, Randolph (Nancy) of Fredonia, Kan.; a nephew, Roger of Sebastopol, Calif.; a niece, Sherri (Jim) Strawn of Rose Hill, Kan.; two great-nephews, Reed and Gavin; and a great-niece, Jessica.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, with visitation preceding the service from 10 to 11 a.m. at Ford and Sons Funeral Home on Mount Auburn Road.

Memorials may be made to Butterfield Youth Services, P.O. Box 333, Marshall, MO 65340 or to the Robert A. Burns scholarship at Southeast Missouri State University, One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.