Induction Category & YearProfessional 2016
Home TownBrookings, SD
Flandreau, SD

   Robert Bob Burns
Champion of Excellence

Robert (Bob) Burns was born in Flandreau in 1942. He is the youngest of six children of the late Joseph and Marie Burns. Bob credits Mary, his oldest sibling and only sister, with protecting his well being during his early bratty years when his older brothers had good cause to cage him. He developed a habit of participation and assumption of leadership roles while attending Flandreau High School. His high school leadership roles and academic success paid dividends in the form of a four year Briggs Scholarship awarded him by SDSU in mid-summer of 1960. Before receiving notification of the SDSU scholarship, Bob hoped to enroll at a sister school to study accounting although the financing was uncertain. Bob was encouraged by his parents, siblings and teachers to earn a college degree but the cost of higher education was beyond the income means of his family. The presence then of low cost public higher education and a generous scholarship made college enrollment possible.

Bob gravitated to student leadership roles and enjoyed academic success while attending SDSU. He entered with the new goal of becoming an engineer but his lack of engineering aptitude and interest soon convinced him that he was not going to design bridges or advance the coming computer age. Fortunately, he found his way into an American Government class taught by Professor JP Hendrickson and he soon became a convert of political science where his aptitude and interests were better suited. Bob graduated from SDSU in June of 1964 with a BS in Political Science and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the US Army through ROTC later that summer. The spring of 1964 also marked his marriage to Donna Bozied who he was very fortunate to meet early in his senior year. Bob’s new ultimate ambition as a SDSU undergraduate was to attend graduate school to earn a MPA and work as a federal civil servant. Indeed, he was headed to Syracuse University with a one year scholarship to earn a MPA when his direction was again altered. The MPA goal was abandoned and a new course was set when late in his senior year the University of Missouri-Columbia awarded him a full ride three year National Defense Fellowship in their political science doctoral program.

Bob subsequently earned a MA (1966) and a PhD (1973) in Political Science from the University of Missouri- Columbia with the financial support of his Fellowship and Donna’s earned salary. Their time in Missouri was blessed with the birth of their daughter, Cari. Bob’s fourth year of graduate study included his first experience as a classroom instructor. A seed was planted. A career choice was formed. Following four years of graduate study, Bob reported for active duty at Ft Benning GA as an officer in the US Army. Bob’s two year active duty time (1968-1970) included one year as an Army Captain in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster while serving in Vietnam. Donna gave birth to their second child, Tim, while Bob was in Vietnam. She still talks about the looks she and her somewhat older father received when they arrived at the Brookings Hospital to give birth that night in March, 1970.  

While serving in Vietnam, Bob was invited by his undergraduate mentor, Professor Hendrickson, to join the political science faculty of SDSU for a one year term appointment. His appointment was formalized after Bob signed a loyalty oath from his station in Vietnam. His one year term appointment was transformed into a 38 year professional life due to some fortunate circumstances and the endorsement of students, colleagues and superiors. His second year of teaching at SDSU was highlighted with the birth of their third child, Jonathan. During his tenure at SDSU he received many teaching awards including being named College of Arts and Sciences “Teacher of the Year” seven different years, Burlington Northern Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching (1989), Distinguished Professor of Political Science in 1994 by the SD Board of Regents and 1995 South Dakota Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching. He also served as department head for the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy and Religion for nearly 20 years. He served as Acting Director of the USD Farber Center from January to July, 1998 while on leave from SDSU. During the last ten years of his tenure at SDSU he served first as Director and later as the first Dean of the SDSU Honors College while continuing his teaching and department head duties. He also assumed many leadership roles on several key campus organizations during his SDSU tenure. Early in his career, his nine month teaching contract afforded him an opportunity to do summer policy research for Governors Kneip, Wollman and Janklow and serve as a Humanist- in- Residence for the SD Committee on Humanities three separate summers.

Upon his retirement in June, 2008, the SD Board of Regents honored him with the titles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Dean Emeritus of the SDSU Honors College. He was also honored as a SDSU Distinguished Alumnus for Service to Education by the SDSU Alumni Association in 2008. He continues to be a well known print and broadcast media commentator on South Dakota and national government, politics and legal issues. Bob has also received recognition for community service. He served on the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education (1997-1998) and he continues service as a SD Commissioner on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (1996-present). His belief that democracy requires active citizen engagement and a strong civil society has prompted him to serve on and sometimes lead multiple state and local civic and government boards, commissions, task forces and councils during his professional life. That service continues into retirement as evidenced by his chairing the SD Budget and Policy Institute and the SD World Affairs Council in addition to regular teaching of OLLI courses in Sioux Falls and Brookings.

Bob’s and Donna’s three adult children and spouses , Cari (Wayne Wagner) from Sioux Falls, and Jonathan (Angie) and Tim (Missy) from Brookings, and 11 grandchildren are first in their hearts. Bob and Donna enjoy domestic and international travel, walking, reading, musical performances, grandchildren events, Jackrabbit events and sharing time with family and friends.

Bob recognizes that his direction in life was frequently determined by foreseen and unforeseen circumstances, deliberate choices and default choices, good and bad fortune, positive encouragement from many individuals and a strong desire to stay put in South Dakota. Bob admits to being ambitious and confident. On more than one occasion, failure to realize an ambition provided an opportunity for reflection and the creation of a new path for professional and personal growth.
Home Town (Brookings, SD)
Loading map...