An Attitude of Gratitude

Students give thanks for scholarships at annual luncheon

The legacy of Daniel Burkett ’06 lives on. It lives on in the people who gathered at Table 41 for the 27th Annual Scholarship Luncheon in USD’s Hahn University Center. It lives on through the memorial scholarship they established in his honor. It lives on in the scholarship recipients who exemplify the spirit of Burkett and who, like him, epitomize so much of what makes USD special.

Burkett graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business economics, and in 2006 received the award of Academic Excellence in Business Economics. He was a member of the Alcalá Club, and was extremely active on campus. Tragically, he died in a boating accident in October 2006.

“We wanted his name to live on forever,” said Shaun Moothart ’06 who, along with classmates Steve Ettlin ’06, Anthony Pavitch ’06 and Matt Pioli ’06, established and endowed the scholarship that will go on in perpetuity. “Danny was a leader; he always had a smile on his face and was the glue who held everyone together.”

The luncheon, held April 1, buzzed with donors excited to talk to students benefitting from their scholarships. Likewise, the students were anxious to show the depth of gratitude that words can never fully capture.

The keynote speaker was Irwin Jacobs, founding chairman and CEO emeritus at Qualcomm, who, along with his wife, Joan, recently pledged $3 million to the Mobile Technology Learning Center at USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences.

The Jacobs’ gift funded a state-of-the-art teaching studio in Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, where the center can further technology-related research and provide teaching and professional development for school districts throughout the nation.

“Scholarships have always been important in my life,” Jacobs said. “I went to Cornell University and then to MIT. Without scholarships and fellowships, I never would have been in the position I am today.”

Kai Thomas ’16 and Maria C. Kelly ’16, recipients of the Mobile Technology Learning Center Doctoral Scholarship, both benefitted from his gift.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from USD in 2003, Kelly worked with children with autism while spending her summers trekking through forests researching monkeys. While she always thought her PhD would involve living in forests, her work with autistic young people made her impassioned about researching ways to improve the education system through technology.

“My recent research endeavors, all made possible due to the scholarship with the Mobile Technology Learning Center, have concerned teacher practice, student learning and the structure of learning environments, all threaded with the integration of technology,” Kelly said. “This has led me to believe that technology can empower youth and transform learning.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Thomas worked as a grant coordinator where she prepared underrepresented students and their families for educational programs after high school. During that time, she received her master’s degree in communication and started an online educational program that used interactive white boards and other forms of media-learning to help students who needed extra support. It was the combination of those experiences that helped her to realize that the best way to help was to provide access to information.

“I’m here to thank everyone in this room who made the dream of higher education a reality for hundreds of students across campus,” Thomas said. “Without your generous gifts, many students, myself included, would not be here today.”

They were among hundreds of students at the luncheon who wanted to say thank you, including Brian Maurer, this year’s recipient of the Daniel Burkett ’06 Memorial Scholarship.

“As students, we can try to write a sentimental letter or email, but this event allows us to express just how much they’ve impacted our education and changed our lives,” he said. “Danny Burkett was an icon on campus. To be in the same sentence with him is an honor. It makes me want to go out into the world and do what I can to honor his legacy.” — Krystn Shrieve