Remembering Burt Wheeler

Burt Wheeler (right & inset) enjoys a game of volleyball in Brookings Quadrangle on “Burt Wheeler Day,” organized by students in 1971 to recognize his many contributions toward improving undergraduate education. (Photos courtesy of WUSTL Archives)

Burton M. Wheeler, professor emeritus of English and of religious studies and former dean of the College of Arts & ­Sciences, died Feb. 17, 2012.

Wheeler came to WUSTL in 1956 as ­instructor of English and of religious studies.

In addition to his teaching and ­research, he held a number of administrative positions, including dean of the College of Arts & Sciences from 1966 to 1978 and chair of the Committee on Religious Studies for more than 20 years.

In 1971, students organized a “Burt Wheeler Day” in Brookings Quadrangle to recognize his many contributions toward improving undergraduate education as well as his efforts toward bridging the gap between faculty and students.

His contributions included introducing the Freshman Advising Program and developing FOCUS, a program that offers first-year students close ­relationships with professors and students who have similar interests in humanities-based study.

In addition, he established a working relationship between the Council of the Students of Arts & Sciences (CSAS) and the Faculty ­Council, providing students for the first time an integral part in determining academic policy and curriculum change.

Wheeler chaired the ­Commencement committee from 1989 until his retirement in 1996, serving as the grand marshal of Commencement for six of those years.

He also served as interim dean of ­the Washington ­University Libraries from 1988 to 1989. In the early 1990s, Wheeler chaired the Task Force on ­Undergraduate Education.

His impact on the Washington University community has been recognized in a number of ways: The Burton M. Wheeler House, one of three South 40 buildings that make up the William Greenleaf Eliot College, opened in 1998, and Wheeler received the Distinguished Faculty Award at the ­university’s Founders Day celebration in 1972 in recognition of outstanding teaching and scholarship.

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