Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

The Clarke A. Burnham Memorial Excellence Endowment


Do you have a story about a personal experience with Clarke or a time he helped you during your career at the University?

"Clarke was both graduate adviser and dissertation committee member to this forever grateful alum, but Clarke was much more. He was a big brother who watched over and guided with equal parts science and folksy charm. In the fullness of time as I now walk the same streets of Clarke's Lexington, MA, youth with my own children, it comforts me to know he is still here somehow. In fact, when you listen just right, you can hear that magical laugh dancing across the October leaves. My best wishes go out to his entire family, and a heartfelt thanks to Clarke. Our steps are forever brighter because of yours."

Andy Lehrer, Ph.D. (2005), 
President, 24/7 Performance, LLC
Research, Analytics & Engineering Team Leader
 V-TRAC/Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

"As an undergraduate in the early 1980s, I took Clarke's research design and methods course. That experience got me excited about research and it changed the course of my professional life. I will always remember Clarke as one one of those rare instructors who sparked my interest and changed my life."

Steve Gregorich

"I was a senior psychology major when Clarke Burnham joined the UT faculty, fresh with his Stanford PhD. I was a student in his first course in the fall semester of 1965, the Psychology of Perception. At the time I was considering graduate study in psychology but had not decided on an area. His perception course made that decision for me. He was a novice teacher and his nervousness showed. But in almost every class he included one or more demonstrations of perceptual phenomena, emphasizing what today we would call active learning. I would later use many of those demonstrations in my own teaching over the years after receiving my PhD in the psychology of perception.

Clarke was the only UT professor who ever invited me to his home, an experience that is memorable, in part, because of its rarity, but also because of how he and his wife Lucy treated me in that encounter. I worked for him as an undergraduate researcher in the spring semester of 1966 and in the summer when I graduated. He modeled his enthusiasm for his work and it rubbed off on me. I learned more about the research process in those seven months than in the rest of my undergraduate studies. Over the years I had several opportunities to tell him how much he meant to me, including an acknowledgement in front of a UT audience when I gave a talk to the Psychology Department several years ago. His mentorship continues to impact my teaching and the way I think about research more than 40 years later. Like many UT students, I owe him much."

Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.
, Professor of Psychology and Department Head, 
Texas A&M University

"I took a Psychology course with Professor Burnham in the Fall of 2001. I can honestly say that he was one of the most memorable professors I had in the department, and his willingness to mentor me made the difference for me at UT. The University of Texas at Austin should feel honored to have had such a fine professor."

Victor H. Lopez (
Class of 2002)

"For a significant period during my graduate training, I was without an advisor. Clarke became my surrogate advisor, without whom I could never have completed my PhD. Essentially, for a period of two years, my career rested on Clarke's shoulders. At the time, I felt like my future rested with Clarke and, in many ways, it did. This was not an isolated incident and I was far from the only person to have this, or similar, experiences with Clarke. One would be fortunate to have even a fraction of his impact on a generation of scientists."

Russell Jackson, Ph.D. (2007, UT Austin)

"Clarke to the rescue! As an Assistant Professor there was a lot of new territory to navigate, and, because I do research with children, the IRB represented a dark, scary, dense forest in that unfamiliar territory. Thanks to Clarke, during my early years I never really had to enter that forest. I simply drafted my proposals, gave them to Clarke, and he took care of the rest. There is one particular IRB incident that I will never forget. I was in the midst of a study of children's beliefs in a novel fantastical being — the Candy Witch — a nice witch who visits children on Halloween and leaves them a new toy in exchange for candy. All data had to be collected within the short 2-week period following Halloween.

One disgruntled parent, however, was convinced that exposure to my friendly, candy eating, fictional being had permanently corrupted her young 4-year-old. This parent managed to close down my study, sending my student research assistants out of the preschool and back to their books. In despair, I turned immediately to Clarke. It was a Friday afternoon and I was convinced that the months of work I had dedicated to collecting data were all for naught. After kindly calming me down and reassuring me, Clarke immediately took up the charge, marching directly over to the IRB office ("Save the Candy Witch!") to talk with the staff there. By Monday morning, the study had been reopened and we were collecting data again. We were eventually able to publish the paper and the findings have increased our understanding of how children differentiate fantasy from reality. I'll never forget Clarke."

Jacqueline Woolley, 
Professor of Psychology, 
University of Texas at Austin

"Clarke is a true hero and mentor for faculty and students. While making preparations to move to UT some 13 years, I was the recipient of Clarke's wisdom, willingness to mentor, and capacity for giving. Clarke single-handedly shepherded me through the IRB process and I, happily, was ready to begin data collection on my first day on the job. Without Clarke's help I would have floundered for several months. In short, Clarke jump started my research program at UT. I also had a new course to prepare upon arriving at UT. I was slotted to teach the Design and Statistics course. Clarke offered to share all of his materials and I am happy to say that I still utilize many of these when I teach the course. Clarke jump started my teaching at UT. Several years back Clarke retired from the University. Clarke wore many hats for the Department and one of the many was Department Review Chair (DRC) for the IRB. I was asked to assume that position and agreed. Simply put, I knew very little about the position, but again Clarke stepped up to the plate and mentored me through the process. While retired Clarke continued to advise me anytime I requested his wisdom. Clarke jump started my position as DRC. I owe Clarke much for his willingness to help and mentor me. I miss Clarke but when I think of him it brings a smile to my face and a warm feeling in my heart."

Todd Maddox

Professor of Psychology, 
University of Texas at Austin

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