Life Member Stories – Peter Burgess

Peter BurgessSummer 1962. Geneva, Illinois. Applied to 5 colleges: Dartmouth, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Stanford, UNC.There were family ties to two of those colleges, but none to UNC. When the acceptance letter arrived, I was feeling adventurous, so I accepted. I never visited Chapel Hill before enrolling, but did attend Freshman Camp (it was held somewhere off campus in a camp setting). Coming from a small town and high school, the initial experience was somewhat overwhelming, but I settled into the class routine and went through informal fraternity rush during the fall semester. I eventually pledged Delta Upsilon fraternity where I made some lifelong friends. I also tried out for and made the freshman basketball team which was coached by Ken Rosemond. At the time (Coach Smith’s third year), Carolina basketball didn’t have quite the reputation it has today, but it was exciting to be a part of a UNC sports team and wear the uniform. Having my picture in a publication archived in the basketball program gives me great pride to this day.

Upon graduation in 1967, I was commissioned an ensign in the US Navy (I went through NROTC at Carolina) and was assigned to a guided missile destroyer out of Long Beach, California. Three years later, I attended and graduated from the Northwestern University MBA program and ended up working in the Chicago area for the next 23 years. During this time, I married and had two daughters and remained in contact with several of my fraternity brothers.

Eventually I divorced and sought to find a woman I had been briefly engaged to at the end of my senior year at Carolina. I found her living in Greensboro and began visiting the great state of North Carolina on a regular basis. We married and decided to move from the Chicago area to North Carolina, so we ended up in Boone, NC, where we currently reside. My younger daughter remained in Illinois with her mother, but desperately wanted to attend UNC. She eventually did, graduating in 2002.

With the move to North Carolina, I was able to reconnect with many other fraternity brothers; especially during a campaign to raise funds to rebuild our fraternity house. One of my lifelong friends from childhood (and a ’68 alum) moved to Chapel Hill and now teaches at Kenan-Flagler. I have attended many basketball games with him and love coming back to Chapel Hill. My wife Nancy, whose father was the Professor of Naval Science from 1963 to 1970 (I think), worked several years at the Carolina Coffee Shop (after she broke off our engagement and her father shipped me off to Long Beach, CA) where she became good friends with Bill Smith, the chef now at Crook’s Corner. Obviously when we come back to Chapel Hill now, we invariably dine at Crook’s Corner.

To summarize, after 27 years of being away from Chapel Hill and UNC, moving to Boone, having one daughter graduate from UNC, being able to visit on a regular basis, being able to reconnect with old fraternity brothers, and having worn the uniform of a North Carolina sports team, I am so grateful to the school for accepting my application in the spring of 1963. It is with immense pride that I associate myself with the school and all that it stands for. My wife’s brother and little sister are alums, her father was on the faculty and eventually worked in the registrar’s office, my daughter is an alum and I am along with one of my boyhood friends. I cannot imagine not being a life member of the GAA and I hope my daughter will join me as a life member as soon as possible. If she doesn’t hurry up, I may just have to sign her up myself and send in the check.

– Peter Burgess ’67 | Life Member 3,221