Dennis Burd: The Golden Griffin
By Joe Wood, Features Contributor
Dennis died on August 23. When great men die, the world mourns twice. The first and deepest loss is felt by his friends and family, those who were blessed to know him. The second, a more subtle sadness, belongs to those who never had the honor. This letter is for both. And for Dennis.
I knew from our first meeting that Dennis was a Buffalo man. No one else could have orated so eloquently with a fried bologna sandwich in his left hand and a plastic cup of beer in his right. We chilled by the Griffin’s Den in the basketball court. The Canisius men’s basketball team was down 20, but Chris Manhertz had just dunked on the Iona center, so we cheered like we won the MAAC. Dennis had been supporting the physics department for around a decade at the time, but that didn’t stop him from giving me a history lesson.
He spoke about Buffalo from days gone by. Growing up on Ivy Lea, he would speed through Sheridan on his bike routes (back when it was all farmland, according to him). He studied chemistry at college before joining the Air Force. After he served his country, Dennis went on to have a successful career working for chemical companies. It was when he retired to work in the physics lab at Canisius, though, that he really had fun. The fast-talking comic got to shine again, glowing with age and bravado. Like an excited electron, he bounced around Dr. Sheets’s patio during one of the frequent physics cookouts. Dennis’s wife Judy laughed and thanked everyone for giving him a job that helped get him out of their house.
As a freshman at Canisius, I would run into Dennis mostly in the basement of Science Hall while visiting Dad. Dennis showed up early to set up the equipment for the labs. His care meant that students received a quality education, complete with perfectly balanced beams and inclined planes on a whole different level. They were his gifts to students. And Dennis was generous.
One time I asked Dennis if he needed help carrying the Canisius sweatpants, hats and hoodies he had bought for all of his kids and grandkids. But, no thank you. He had it, and a question for me.
“Getting into any trouble?”
“No,” I said.
“Why not?” he asked. I’ve made you proud since then, Dennis. Thank you for everything.