Father Norbert Burns, S.M.

Fr. Norbert Burns has given more than 60 years of his life to the University of Dayton as student, clergy, professor, counselor and evangelist for the Marianist charism. He sees the classroom as the true incarnation of Father Chaminade's vision, and has taught more than 27,000 students in his signature Christian Marriage class.

Special Service Award 2013

For Volunteer Service to the University of Dayton

The Special Service Award is presented to an alumnus who has performed a special service or displayed exceptional diligence on behalf of the University of Dayton.  

Special Service awards are given for extended service, for successfully completing a special project or program on behalf of the University, the Alumni Association or the office of University Outreach and Engagement.  To be eligible, a person must be a graduate of the University of Dayton with an associate, bachelor, masters or doctoral degree.

Father Norbert Burns, S.M.
Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy

Father Norbert Burns, S.M., has given more than 60 years of his life to the University of Dayton in roles like student, clergy, professor, counselor and evangelist for the Marianist charism. “I’ve spent 70 years as a Marianist, 60 years as a priest, 50 years as a professor, 67 years in the classroom, 40 years as a marriage counselor, 25 years as a radio program host and 20 years of service in local parishes and to UD students in the Chapel,” he said. “And, I’ve presided over more weddings of UD alumni than I can count.”

With his signature Christian Marriage course, which more than 27,000 University of Dayton students took (a campus record), he quickly became a part of the collective University of Dayton experience. For 25 years, he hosted a call-in radio program on the challenges of modern-day marriage, and he always had a faithful following during the years he presided over the 12:30 p.m. Mass in the Chapel.

“I saw the classroom as the best possible incarnation of Father Chaminade’s vision. When I walked in on the first day, I greeted each student and tried to remember all their names. On the last day, I gave each one a hug so that the class was an example, a demonstration, of what his vision was all about,” he said.

Even after he retired, he continued to teach Christian Marriage — at the special request of the president, as well as by popular demand. He visited alumni chapters around the country to share his six universal keys to healthy relationships, and on campus, he led conversations about the University’s Marianist identity and the role of relationships in it.

Today, he still attends Reunion Weekend, visiting every class party, porch party, cluster and table. The scholarship fund bearing his name continues to attract gifts each year; in all, it’s received more than $75,000 in contributions from hundreds of individual donors.

In addition to his bachelor’s degree from UD, Burns earned a licentiate of sacred theology from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, a doctorate in sacred theology from St. Thomas University, Rome and a post-graduate degree from Yale.

—Audrey Starr