Burian University-Community Lecture Series

Dr. Bill Burian, founding dean of WMU's College of Health and Human Services, believed in a global health and human services community. To honor his legacy, WMU and CHHS established the Burian University-Community Lecture Series in 1989.

The Burian University-Community Lecture Series focuses on community and educational issues in the health and human services from a problem-solving perspective. It brings together students, faculty, community professionals and service providers, and the citizens of southwest Michigan to interact with leaders of national stature. The endowed lecture series emphasizes the qualities of health and human services that were the essence of Dr. Burian's mission:

  • Preparing leaders who understand their professional tasks in a context that embraces the wholeness, beauty and challenges of life.
  • Fostering multidisciplinary education within the college, with other university colleges and with the professional communities.
  • Contributing to the quality of health and human services in West Michigan, our state and our nation through instructional programs, research and community services.
  • Encouraging a comprehensive service system that is responsible to all citizens.


  • Video of 2024 Burian Lecture: Dr. James Jackson, Clearing the Fog - Surviving to Thriving with Long COVID.
  • Video of 2017 Burian Lecture - Edna Kane Williams
  • Video of 2015 Burian Lecture - LaQuandra Nesbitt
  • Video of 2014 Burian Lecture - Eva L Evans
  • Video of 2013 Burian Lecture - Brian Gibbs
  • Video of 2012 Burian Lecture - Richard Kirsch

Previous Lectures

  • 2024 - Dr. James Jackson
  • 2022 - stef m. shuster
  • 2022 - Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens
  • 2019 - Mark Nepo
  • 2018 - Dr. Danielle Allen
  • 2017 - Edna Kane-Williams
  • 2015 - Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt
  • 2014 - Dr. Christina Puchalski
  • 2014 - Dr. Eva Evans
  • 2013 - Brian Gibbs
  • 2013 - Richard Kirsch
  • 2013 - Wayne Muller
  • William A. Sanger
  • Richard D. Lamm
  • Parker J. Palmer
  • Dr. Henry Foster
  • Dr. David B. Morris
  • Ted Kennedy Jr.

About Dr. Bill Burian

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.