Deceased October 2022

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In Memory

Jesse “Goose” Burkhardt passed away peacefully in his sleep at his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home in early October. Always a man of mystery and surprises, the exact cause is unknown.

Jesse came to Amherst from St. Paul’s School and quickly became a core part of the fourth floor James freshman crew known as the “Boys.” He arrived as a serious classics scholar but found the College’s social life more engaging than the studies. Jesse and all the Boys rushed together and found a home at Chi Phi, where he was often found holding court at Wednesday night taps on topics ranging from Buddhist philosophy to the classical influences on the Grateful Dead. While Jesse was very smart, intellectually curious and a talented writer, he took some extra time to complete his degree and graduated with the class of ’80. He spent the last two years living at Theta Xi, the “Zoo,” where he made other lasting friendships, including with Dave Hamer ’81, whom he introduced to his sister Betsy and became his brother-in-law, Cambridge neighbor and lifelong friend and travel companion.

After college, Jesse took computer courses at Keene State and moved to Cambridge, where he made his career in the IT industry, initially in software development and later in web design. He started a business with another Zoo friend, Andy Farrar ’80, and was an early investor in the dot-com boom, riding that wave. 

Jesse was a free spirit, inquisitive and adventurous, traveling the world for multiple years at a time and visiting the remotest regions of Latin America and Asia, even working for a while in Japan. He was a connoisseur of good food, an avid wine collector, a talented guitar player and a passionate fan of music, both jazz and rock, along with rock ‘n’ roll history. He was particularly enamored with the Beatles and often recounted his chance meeting with John and Yoko in a New York bookstore (though they declined his gracious request for an autograph). Jesse maintained a large and diverse circle of like-minded intellectuals in Cambridge, with his apartment frequently the center of spirited after-hours gatherings.

Throughout his life, Jesse remained a close and loyal friend to the Chi Phi Boys and his friends from the Zoo. Jesse came to most of our Boys get-togethers, including the weekend on the bayou in Louisiana (where he brazenly commandeered a pirogue and ventured into the dark bayou, unfazed by the lurking alligators), ski trips in Colorado and the Dead’s Fare Thee Well concerts in San Francisco. And, of course, he was a consistent presence at our Amherst class of ’78 reunions, the last of which in 2018 was so memorable, with virtually all our Chi Phi brothers attending. It was also the last time that most of us saw Jesse in person.

Jesse always had a wide smile, a witty quip and the biggest heart. The world is a lot less interesting without him in it.

Don Moses ’78 and Tom Pratt ’78