Remembering Mary Burgan

By Kelly Hand

We note with sadness the death of Mary Burgan, who served as the general secretary of the AAUP from 1994 until her retirement in 2004. Burgan died in Washington, DC, on January 12 at the age of eighty-one. Her years heading the Association’s national office—a position now filled by an executive director—followed a decades-long career as a professor of English at Indiana University.

Burgan served Indiana University with distinction as a teacher, scholar, and academic administrator, acting as chair of the Department of English and as an associate dean in the College of Arts and Science. She is the author of Illness, Gender, and Writing: The Case of Katherine Mansfield (1994) and What Ever Happened to the Faculty? Drift and Decision in Higher Education (2006). In a review of the latter in Academe, Rob Moore noted that Burgan called for “a renewed effort to invigorate shared governance structures, a move away from the ‘winner-take-all’ mentality in the competition for academic superstars, and a heightened concern about the dangers of commercial exploitation of the research capacities of our colleges and universities.”

AAUP executive director Julie Schmid, who worked as an organizer in the national office while Burgan was the general secretary, said, “Mary Burgan led the AAUP at a time of great change in the profession. During her tenure as general secretary, Mary brought her keen intellect to bear on the myriad challenges facing the Association and higher education as a whole and pushed the AAUP to be more engaged and responsive on such issues as contingency in the profession, work-family balance in higher education, and the corporatization of the academy. Her commitment to reinvigorating shared governance through a call to academic citizenship still shapes the work we do here today.”

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