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Always a Badger: Late WSB Student Charlie Burton Awarded Posthumous Degree

By Betsy Lundgren

January 8, 2020

Late WSB student Charlie Burton

Charlie Burton, a fourth-generation Badger who passed away in December 2019, will receive his posthumous Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Photo courtesy of the Burton family

“Once a Badger, always a Badger.”

It’s a phrase often heard around the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. For most Badgers, it signifies a lifelong connection to one’s alma mater. But for Charlie Burton, a Wisconsin School of Business student who passed away in December 2019 after an eight-year battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, the phrase will carry special meaning as he is awarded a posthumous Bachelor of Business Administration degree in May 2020.

Burton was an outstanding business student, pursuing a major in marketing with a certificate in supply chain management. He was a proud and active member of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, where he made some very strong friendships. Despite his health challenges and ongoing medical treatment in Milwaukee, Burton spent the majority of his time on campus in Madison and was on track to graduate in Spring 2020.

“Charlie was a wonderful student, always engaged and conscientious,” recalls Verda Blythe, a WSB faculty associate who taught one of Burton’s marketing courses. “Charlie was so positive and resilient! He was thoughtful and almost apologetic about being late or having to ask for an extension here or there due to his illness. He didn’t want that to get in the way of his performance or perception of him.”

In recognition of Burton’s dedication and stellar academic record, Dean Vallabh Sambamurthy recommended to Chancellor Rebecca Blank that Burton be awarded a posthumous degree from UW–Madison. Chancellor Blank concurred, and Burton will officially be recognized with his degree at commencement on May 9, 2020.

“Charlie loved his time at UW and enjoyed being in the Wisconsin School of Business,” says his father, Mike Burton. “He found the classes stimulating and liked the camaraderie involved in group projects. Through his work at WSB, he was able to land a summer internship at Exact Sciences. He also participated in the School’s study abroad program to Seville, Spain, which was one of the highlights of his life. He developed a rapport with his professors, who accommodated his occasional need for schedule changes due to chemotherapy and other ongoing treatments.”

“Charlie fought hard to graduate and was only a few classes short when he passed. We know he would be thrilled to receive the posthumous degree,” Mike Burton adds. “When it was announced at Charlie’s celebration of life, the crowd of 400-500 people was extremely enthusiastic. It was a beautiful acknowledgment of his determination and passion.”

Burton was a beloved member of the WSB community and will be remembered for his tenacity, generosity, and Badger pride.

“On behalf of all of us at the Wisconsin School of Business, it is my great honor to call Charlie an alumnus,” says Dean Sambamurthy. “Charlie exhibited the best of what it means to be a Badger, and we know he’ll forever be part of our extended Badger family.”

Read Burton’s full obituary.