Deceased June 16, 2019
Howard J. Burnett was a distinguished member of our class, both academically and athletically. Howie grew up seventh of William and Bridget Burnett’s eight children in Holyoke, Mass. From a working class background, Howie excelled scholastically and athletically at Holyoke High School. He spent a year at Deerfield Academy, where he was over the top in his studies and on the athletic fields. Amherst College was very lucky to get him.
At Amherst, he majored in political science and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He also captained the College soccer team. He was twice named to the All-American Soccer Team. The College awarded him the Howard Hill Mossman Trophy.
Howie received a Rhodes Scholarship and attended Queens College, Oxford, where he received a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy, politics and economics. In 1965, Howard received his Ph.D. in government and international relations from NYU.
In between Oxford and NYU (1954–58), Howard served as an officer in the U.S. Navy Supply Corps. In 2010 he was named as one of the Supply Corps Distinguished Alumni.
In 1970 he became president of Washington & Jefferson College. During his first year as president, W&J began admitting women, and Howie successfully managed the transition, which included hiring the first female faculty member and placing women on the board of trustees. While president, he substantially increased the W&J endowment.
Howie served as civilian aide to the secretary of the army for Western Pennsylvania, while also serving on the boards of Cyclops Steel, Washington Hospital and the Pittsburgh Opera.
Howard was married to two wonderful women, Maryann DePalmer Burnett, who survives him, and the late Barbara “Binky” Burnett. He is survived by three children, Lee Berman, Sue Petito and Mark Burnett; three stepchildren; nine grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. We are very proud to have had him as a classmate and friend.
Bill Smethurst ’52