Schoolchildren and educators lost a guiding light with the death of longtime teacher and advocate Alvin Guy Burchfiel ’49 MA ’54. A retired faculty member and administrator in the WCU College of Education and Allied Professions, Burchfiel, of Cullowhee, died Dec. 11, 2011, at 88.
Burchfiel joined WCU in 1962 after receiving his bachelor’s degree in physical education and social studies and his master’s degree in education and history from Western Carolina and his doctorate from the University of Tennessee. He went on to serve as professor and head of the Department of Administration, Curriculum and Instruction before his 1989 retirement.
His passing brought an outpouring of remembrances from friends who knew Burchfiel from WCU and his years as a public schoolteacher, coach, principal and administrator in North Carolina and Tennessee, including positions at schools in Buncombe County, as assistant president and dean of men at Brevard College, and as assistant superintendent of the Greeneville, Tenn., public school system.
“Guy was one of my ideals,” said Donald D. Jones MAEd ’61, who took classes from Burchfiel while a student at Oakley High School in Buncombe County. Jones, former superintendent of Asheville City Schools, spent three decades as a teacher and administrator in Western North Carolina. “His influence upon me was a major reason for my entering the education profession,” Jones said.
Together with his wife, Jo Edith Morgan Burchfiel ’52 MAEd ’54, also an educator, Burchfiel helped a number of young people pursue dreams of higher education, said daughter Dorothy Morelli ’83. With the Burchfiels’ help, one high school senior whose father resisted sending her to college eventually earned a doctorate from Duke University and remains close to the family. “He was a wonderful educator but more than that he was an advocate for education,” said Morelli, of Brentwood, Tenn. He also was an advocate for WCU, where he met his wife and where each of his four children earned degrees, three of them following their parents into education. “He loved Western. He had lots of other professional opportunities, but he really wanted to raise his children in Cullowhee,” said Morelli, who as a WCU student “lived in a dorm a mile from my house.”
Burchfiel, a World War II Army veteran, took on a variety of roles at WCU, including alumni secretary, director of public relations, director of summer school and coordinator of WCU’s role in the National Teacher Corps. He worked many years with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and in 1971 began a year working full time with SACS, traveling throughout Central and South America for the association and the U.S. State Department to assist in their work with American schools overseas. His accolades were numerous, including WCU’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1986. Perhaps best representing his dual love of education and WCU was a title he received in 1975, when the WCU student body voted him Outstanding University Citizen.