Trek: Trek Celebrates The Life Of Dick Burke

2008/03/18

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Friends, family, colleagues, and business leaders gathered Monday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to celebrate the life of Trek’s late co-founder, Richard “Dick” Burke, who died on March 10, 2008 at the age of 73. The tribute, held at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center—a facility funded by Burke’s Trinity Foundation—remembered Burke as a mentor, a businessman, a father, a friend, and above all, as a philanthropist. “He was a great business man,” noted Kozo Shimano, President of Shimano Japan, “but he was a far greater person.”

Emotions ran deep as remembrances of Dick both moved and entertained. Amidst the stories of his professional accomplishments and generous spirit, Burke Scholars Director Stephanie Quade, or “Stefy” as Dick called her (somewhat to her chagrin), remembered Dick as a humble man who refused to take himself too seriously:

“On the day of the Burke Scholars dinner—celebrating the graduating seniors and welcoming the new scholars and their families—Dick got to the Marquette campus early, coming from another meeting in Milwaukee, looking for a place to nap. I grabbed my keys to open up some office space, where I knew we had some couch sections and maybe some privacy. But he waved me off, saying, “No, Stefy, this is fine over here,” and pointed to a small space on the floor in the outer office, between some filing cabinets and a colleague’s door. While I protested, he rolled up his rain coat for a pillow and fell asleep. I tip-toed around him, Chairman and CEO of Trek, Trustee of the University, named sponsor of the most prestigious scholarship on campus, lying on our thinly carpeted floor, out like a light. Then it dawned on me. This man could be anywhere. He could probably be a lot more comfortable. But he is choosing to spend his time with these young people; choosing to serve as a model of integrity and leadership; a man willing to set aside his ego and comfort, to lose himself; a man who can be understood in large part through his good work for others.”

Dick Burke’s daughter, Mary, summed up her father’s legacy:

“What remains here of my father are not buildings with his name on them, or corporate jets, or expensive new cars. That was not Dick Burke. What remains means so much more. His companies: Roth, and Trek, and the great people that are part of those families. The hundreds of Burke Scholars, Trinity Fellows, and Caroline Scholars, that are committed to public service. His wealth, through his Trinity Foundation, that is dedicated to making the world a better place by giving opportunities to those who need them. His children, and his grandchildren, who know that to whom much is given, much is required. And finally, what remains is his guiding light that will continue to shine brightly.”

His wife Camille shared Dick’s idea for what his epitaph should read, a trademark terse suggestion he made back in 2000: “He was fair. And he made a difference.”

In a final note he wrote for his family, Dick Burke ended with: “Thanks. It was a great ride.”

It’s fair to say that for all that knew him, it’s Dick Burke himself who deserves all the thanks for making it such a truly remarkable and inspiring ride.