Donald Bernard Burroughs was born in Florence, South Carolina on January 29, 1952.
He is the third of eight children born to the late Bishop William and Margaret Burroughs. In 1954, the Burroughs family relocated to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where Donald began his formal education at Allison Elementary School. The family moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1959 where he continued in the Boston Public School system. Donald received a scholarship to Huntington Preparatory School for Boys where he earned his high school diploma. Continuing his academic pursuits, he completed undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature/Letters at Boston College and subsequently earned a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Donald (aka, The Third Son from the Rock) displayed academic and artistic prowess at an early age, which marked his high school and college experiences in a wide array of interests, including glee club, dance, drama, track & field, and cheer squad. His love of music was an undeniable passion that informed his artistic gifts as a marvelous singer and talented chorale leader. Donald served as choir director at Congregation Ecclesia (his father’s church) as early as age 15. Additionally, he remained musically engaged, singing professionally with several choral organizations, spanning several music genres from jazz, blues, R&B, as well as opera. Donald’s deep joy and intentional focus was in gospel music.
Donald was the consummate educator, a cultivator not only of literacies that equip students for full participation in a world that does not distribute opportunity equitably, but of individual voices, and communities that thrive and learn together. Though the primary focus of his educational work was the Pilot School at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS), Donald’s work with the National S.E.E.D. (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project enabled educators from all over the country to develop their capacities as agents of student inclusion, achievement, and empowerment.
Donald’s own students certainly felt included, loved, supported, challenged, and empowered. In characterizing Donald as their teacher, they invariably invoke his high academic standards and his truth-telling: Donald never held back from telling them what they needed to know about themselves. But they always understood his insistence on their academic seriousness and respectful behavior as coming from a place of love, concern, and commitment. Yes, Donald shepherded them through the arduous yet self-enlarging processes of finding and developing their own voices and telling their own stories. He also taught them to listen with open minds and hearts to others’ voices and stories—those of their classmates, and those of the authors of the books that so many of them remember as integral to their evolving understandings of the world and themselves: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.
The result was a strong classroom community that was authentically academic and interpersonal.
Donald’s colleagues, many of whom became his good friends and family, felt similarly embraced, blessed and respected by his loving but always discerning attention. Donald checked in with his colleagues, listened, remembered, and made suggestions, sometimes very gently and other times more emphatically.
After a brief illness, Donald went from labor to rest on September 20, 2021 at 7:00 AM. He was preceded in death by his father, Bishop William Burroughs, Jr., his mother, Margaret E. Burroughs, his oldest brother, William L. Burroughs, Sr., his sister Deborah L. Burroughs, and two great nephews, Christopher Burroughs, and Kaiden Burroughs. He leaves to cherish his memory four sisters, Emily Teresa McNeal, Yvonne Burroughs-Tucker, Ida Burroughs, Alene Burroughs, two brothers, Lawrence Burroughs, Samuel Alan Burroughs (Merilyn), sixteen nieces and nephews, eleven grand-nieces and grand-nephews, and a host of cousins and friends. He will be greatly missed and his legacy will live on in the hearts and the minds of all.
“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within”. -James Baldwin
“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” -Ralph Ellison
Private service can be viewed at www.etpchurch.org on Thursday, September 30, 2021.
To leave condolences for the family, visit www.georgelopesfuneralhome.com
Arrangements entrusted to George Lopes Funeral Home, 821 Cummins HWY, Mattapan, MA 02126.
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