Dr. Vivian Burke: Educator, Community Leader and Advocate, Champion
Updated: Jun 3
The Arts Council joins the community’s collective grief for the loss of Dr. Vivian Burke, the professional educator who was a trailblazer, bridge-builder, advocate and champion for causes that have made our community exceptional.
Dr. Burke’s extensive public service is only partially defined by her long and effective tenure as a member of the Winston-Salem City Council and as Mayor Pro Tempore. Beyond those official positions, Dr. Burke was a catalyst and worked tirelessly for numerous civic initiatives – bringing together people from disparate parts of the community – to achieve inclusive and empowering outcomes that are now part of the fabric of our community’s success.
She had great presence. She was fearless, and she was effective. She got things done.
Dr. Burke was a champion for many in our community who desperately needed a champion – often when others were silent – and most poignantly, for decades, she was a role model for countless young women. It is impossible to say how many lives she touched in a very personal as well as transformative way.
The Arts Council, and the entire arts constellation of our community, have a special place for Dr. Burke in our hearts. She believed strongly in the arts and The Arts Council’s mission of “touching every corner”, and she provided active support and guidance as well as encouragement.
Ten years ago, when we created the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, Dr. Burke served as an Honorary Chair for our successful comprehensive campaign. She had the vision to see the impact that The Rhodes Center would have for the continuing revitalizations of downtown and for our community’s entire arts constellation.
Dr. Burke applauded when, working together as a community, The Arts Council brought the North Carolina Black Repertory Company to the downtown Theatre District, creating a permanent home for it on North Spruce Street and making it a resident company of the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.
Dr. Burke was front and center, of course, when the National Black Theatre Festival was founded in our town 30 years ago. Over the ensuing years, she made sure that Winston-Salem provided a welcoming and supportive environment and generous support for this internationally-acclaimed jewel of our community’s arts constellation.
The list of Dr. Burke’s impressive and impactful accomplishments is long, and we will be reflecting upon them in the coming days as we celebrate her life. But let me say here, on behalf of The Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County and our entire arts constellation, simply and sincerely:
“Godspeed, Dr. Burke. You were our champion and great friend, and we miss you already.”
W. Randy Eaddy
President and CEO