For nearly 40 years, the vision and leadership of Dr. Joseph C. Burke helped shape Miner Institute into the organization it is today. Dr. Burke spent years tirelessly researching and then writing a comprehensive biography of William Miner, bringing Miner’s incredible story to the North Country that has so greatly benefitted from his generosity. Dr. Burke was passionate about preserving the legacy of William and Alice Miner and ensuring that their vision for the North Country continues to live on. Dr. Burke passed away at his home in Albany on Aug. 3, 2018. A celebration of his life was organized by his family and held at Miner Institute on Oct. 6.
Expressing exactly what Dr. Burke has meant for Miner Institute is difficult to put into words. Dr. Burke was an unusually involved and engaged chair of the board, spending countless hours walking around the Miner grounds interacting with employees and visitors and was genuinely interested in getting to know the staff and students who were helping to carry out William Miner’s vision.
The Heart’s Delight Farm Heritage Exhibit opened in 2003 – 100 years after William and Alice Miner started building Heart’s Delight Farm. The exhibit pays tribute to William and Alice Miner and the development of their expansive farm in the early 1900s. The exhibit attracts nearly 2000 visitors annually, providing Miner Institute with an opportunity to showcase all that William Miner has done for the North Country and also helping to familiarize the general public with agriculture – past and present as our horse and dairy barns are also open to visitors. The exhibit’s existence is due in large part to Dr. Burke’s insistence that William Miner’s story be preserved and shared and his vision for how that could be accomplished.
On October 9, 2012 Miner Institute dedicated its main education building as the Joseph C. Burke Education and Research Center. In remarks he gave at the dedication ceremony, Dr. Burke said “My name on this building really stands for all who have labored for over half a century to make William Miner’s dream a reality.” Dr. Burke said that he was honored to have a Miner Institute building bear his name, but added that it was really about the Spirit of Heart’s Delight Farm and the people who work at Miner Institute. “You’re part of a larger thing that’s gone on and on,” Dr. Burke said to the staff in attendance. “The trees and the fields are beautiful, but they’ve always been there. It’s really the people working together that makes all the difference in the world.”
Dr. Burke would undoubtedly count strategic planning as his proudest accomplishment for Miner Institute. In 2012, Dr. Burke remarked that strategic planning was the contribution he was most proud of for Miner Institute, because he recognized how important it was for any organization to measure and achieve its goals. “He was so passionate about understanding and ensuring that William Miner’s vision for the Institute endured. He constantly pushed us to consider our mission – research, education, and demonstration – and how we could achieve the next milestone. He was never satisfied with the status quo – no matter how successful it might be. He would ask: ‘What’s next? How can we do a better job of pushing forward Miner’s legacy?’ He constantly encouraged us to keep moving forward,” Dr. Rick Grant said.
Dr. Burke’s leadership and insight will be dearly missed but never forgotten.