Dr. Bill Burian was named founding dean of WMU's College of Health and Human Services in 1976, when the University initiated this new college. Previously, he served on the faculty of the WMU School of Social Work. He came to WMU in 1969 as an associate professor and was promoted to the rank of professor in 1972.
A distinguished scholar, researcher, educator and community service activist, Burian was well known for his many leadership roles at the national, state and local levels. He was frequently invited to present papers, conduct seminars, serve on panels, keynote meetings, and give testimony on a broad spectrum of topics from commentary on social issues to the implications of technology on the future of the health and human services.
He consulted widely for national and state governments, private health and human service organizations, and foundations, and he served as the project director for 10 major research and development projects beyond the confines of his role as dean and professor. He published extensively in, as well as edited, prestigious professional journals in the fields of health and human services.
A member of numerous local, state and national boards and committees spanning more than 20 years, Burian's later affiliations included leadership assignments with the American Society of Allied Health Professions. He served as president of the Southwest Michigan Health Systems Agency and was president of its successor, the Southwest Michigan Health Coordinating Council. He participated in advisory groups for several Michigan governors and their cabinets.
The coordination of large systems, particularly the health and human services, was the focus of Burian's professional activities and scholarly endeavors in his later professional life. He was especially interested in the interface between provider systems and large employers in health care and in international comparative health and human services policy and systems, with special attention to the Far East and Pacific Rim.
The recipient of several citations and awards, Burian's last honor was bestowed at the annual meeting of the American Society of Allied Health Professions in November 1987, when he was named the outstanding member based upon his extraordinary contributions to the goals of the society.
In addition to a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Burian held a bachelor's degree from John Carrol University in Cleveland and a Master of Social Work degree from Boston College.
While on a trip to Africa, he contracted a rare and deadly lung infection. He passed away on Sept. 21, 1988, at the age of 51.
Tributes to Dr. Burian
Bill Burian was a dynamic health educator who inspired all of his faculty colleagues to achieve greater goals in their quest to improve health care for all of humanity. Health professionals will sorely miss his strong leadership and unfailing friendship. He was a dreamer who could implement his dreams.
Diether H. Haenicke, WMU President, 1985-98, 2006-07
Bill Burian's spirit lives with all of us in everything that is positive. Each of us must use our talents and skills to make a difference and thereby keep the essence of Bill Burian alive.
Peter A. Dual, dean of San Diego State University's College of Health and Human Services
Bill Burian was instrumental in establishing a number of programs that put the University on the cutting edge, programs that helped both the University and the community. We are at a loss on how to manage to find someone who can do all the things he has done for us. Beyond that, he just was a great person to know and to have him removed darkens the sky for all of us.
George Dennison, WMU provost and vice president for academic affairs
Bill Burian facilitated the (consolidation) talks between Kalamazoo's two hospitals. There were times we thought the talks couldn't continue, but with the help of his leadership we looked to the future with a new creative perspective.
Timothy Stack, president, Borgess Medical Center
Bill Burian was an unwavering source of vision and leadership, which he combined with eternal optimism and perseverance.
Judith Rayman, executive director, Southwest Michigan Health Coordinating Council
What I gained from Bill Burian was insight into what leadership can do… that policy is reality… that systems work… and that people are the key to both.
Patricia Gillepsie, leadership program director, American Society of Allied Health Professions
Bill Burian was a perpetual catalyst for creativity and growth in a multitude of community health and human services endeavors. Blending his professional expertise with his skillful art as a facilitator, he became the community's most talented natural resource in problem solving for the greatest common good for all citizens.
Maury E. Reed, Kalamazoo