John Burness Obituary – John Burness, who was 77 years old at the time of his death on December 19, 2018, served as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Durham Technical Community College. The following is a statement that was released by President J.B. Buxton: “John Burness was a large-than-life figure who had enormous aspirations for Durham Tech.

He held a strong conviction that the College possessed the potential to improve the lives of people living in Durham and Orange counties. His leadership at both Duke University and Durham Tech reflected his dedication to harnessing the potential of institutions to enhance the lives of individuals and build communities that are more cherished by those who live in them.

He knew that our community was lucky to have such bright and caring faculty and staff, and he had a heart for the kids at Durham Tech. He was proud of what he regarded as a highly skilled and committed board of trustees, and he was committed to the students of Durham Tech. He radiated warmth and was a revered and much-loved character in this community; he was recognized for his humor and charm. He passed away recently. He was devoted to his family, the Duke Blue Devils basketball team, and the New York Yankees baseball team. His leadership will be sorely missed at Durham Tech, and I shall personally mourn our friendship.

From 2009 until 2022, Burness served on the Board of Trustees for Durham Technical Community College, and he has been the board’s chair since 2017. He worked in the field of higher education for a total of forty years, the last seventeen of which were spent at Duke University in the position of senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, during which time he was appointed by three different university presidents.

In the past, he has worked in senior public affairs positions at the University of Illinois, Stony Brook University, and Cornell University, where he most recently served as vice president for university relations. Additionally, he held the position of interim president of Franklin and Marshall College, which is the institution that he graduated from. Burness was instrumental in developing Duke University into an institution that is not just nationally prominent but also strongly rooted in the community of Durham.

His direction was instrumental in the establishment of the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership in 1996. This organization’s mission was to broaden the range of possibilities open to citizens of Durham in terms of homeownership, education, and access to medical care. He is survived by his wife Anne Williams, son Evan and daughter-in-law Katie, and their children Calvin and Ozzie; son Sam and daughter-in-law Danielle, and their children Cameron and Isabella; brother Andrew and sister-in-law Hope, and their children Alex and Molly; brother-in-law Michael Sundman, and his children Graham and Susanna, as well as great-nieces and great-nephews. He was married to Anne Williams for 62 years.