WORTHINGTON - Former Minnesota West Community and Technical College president and civic leader Conrad “Connie” Burchill died last Thursday at the Minnesota Veteran’s Home in Luverne. He was 83 years old.
Burchill became president of Minnesota West on Aug. 1, 1987, and filled that position until his retirement in January 1997. He had previously served as president of Edison State Community College in Piqua, Ohio, from 1984-87.
“Connie was enormously loyal, to Minnesota West and to his friends and colleagues,” said Diane Graber, who became provost at the institution shortly after Burchill’s retirement. “He was so accepting and welcoming, and was a very open person who laughed a lot, so people felt very comfortable with him.”
Besides his leadership role at Minnesota West, Burchill was a longtime trustee of the Southwest Minnesota Foundation (SWMF), serving as that organization’s chair for a period. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to SWMF, he received the SWMF Award in 2004.
“Connie is the Southwest Foundation,” said SWMF president Sherry Ristau of Burchill at the time he was the awardee. “When I think about being a catalyst, facilitating opportunities for economic, social and cultural growth, that’s exactly what Connie did as the chair of our board and as a trustee.
“He exemplifies the concept of promoting leadership, collaboration, innovation and philanthropy for the people and communities of southwest Minnesota.”
In addition, Burchill was elected to the Board of Education of District 518 in the late 1990s, and during his tenure he chaired the Kids 2000 school referendum committee, among other efforts.
“He was an excellent member of the board in terms of being engaged and studying the issues,” recalled past District 518 Superintendent John Widvey. “He was always willing to offer his thoughts, advice and opinions, and was a key person - deeply involved - with our bond issue referendum and getting out that message to the public.
“I had the utmost respect for him as a person, and his talents included being a great listener.”
Gordon Moore, who served alongside Burchill on the District 518 board for three years, concurred.
“Connie had his heart in the right place,” Moore opined. “He was a visionary person and a huge supporter of education in Worthington, both at the college and public school levels.
“I really appreciated his balanced perspective on things,” Moore continued. “He had an excellent sense of humor and a kind heart but combined that with very perceptive insights into educational issues.”
Burchill was born Sept. 22, 1929, and grew up in Harvey, N.D., later earning B.S. and business administration degrees at North Dakota State University. He also held undergraduate degrees in economics and journalism, as well as a master’s degree in education and personnel services.
From 1964 to 1984, Burchill was personnel manager and assistant director of finance at South Dakota State University before moving to Ohio to become Edison State Community College president.
“The Boy Scouts was an organization that was near and dear to his heart, and he earned the Silver Beaver award,” shared Burchill’s wife of 29 years, Cec Burchill. “He was a very active member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Worthington, and was also involved in many ways with the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce.”
Besides his wife, Burchill is survived by five children and five grandchildren.
“I just want people to remember what a vital and energetic community member Connie was,” said Cec Burchill. “He was a very humble man who always kept his word and was not hung up on titles.
“He was compassionate, generous and trustworthy, and now he is at peace.”
Visitation for Burchill will be from 5-8 p.m. Sept. 20 at Benson Funeral Home, Worthington, with Mass of Christian burial at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Worthington, on Sept. 21. Burchill was a member of the U.S. Army and a Korean War veteran; his burial will be at a later date in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis.