Marc Burnett, a member of the Tech community for over 40 years, is retiring in December.
Over the past 40 years, Marc Burnett’s influences on Tech ranged from athlete, student, and employee.
As a student, Burnett studied English, journalism, wrote articles for The Oracle, and played guard for the Golden Eagles Basketball team.
He began his freshman year in 1977, is the middle of seven children, and is a first-generation college student. He came from the small town of Alcoa, Tennessee, and Cookeville presented a new world of opportunities, he said.
Men’s basketball provided one of those opportunities.
“The first game we played was the biggest crowd I ever played for and my first thought literally was ‘I’m not going out there’ and you get those butterflies and that energy from basketball… you never forget that,” he said.
His basketball career provided a memory for Burnett that no other Tech student can experience, he was the first player to score a goal in the new building.
“The first game I ever played we played Vanderbilt. It was the first game in the Hooper Eblen Center and I scored the first Tennessee Tech points there… to beat Vanderbilt an SEC team was very special for us,” he said.
Although basketball consumed much of his time, he said he made academics the forefront of his mind.
“I remember my last game as a senior and thinking this is pretty much going to end and life is going to go on but I was taught school is the most important thing, that’s the reason I’m here. My mother always impressed that upon me,” he said.
Later when he moved to the graduate program, he met his high school sweetheart, Tamelyn Burnett, and started his professional career with Tech.
“The graduate program showed me what Tech is really like, showed me that sports aren’t forever but my education is,” he said.
In November1991, he became the vice president of student affairs, but this is not his only title.
For 26 years Burnett served as SGA adviser, in 1986 helped to develop the minority engineering program and in 2019 became the first chief diversity officer.
“I’ve done a lot but Dr. Randy Perry, the associate dean of engineering, wanted to start a minority engineering program … he called and asked me to help start the program that we still have today,” he said.
Burnett said his heavy involvement is what allowed him to interact with students which is his favorite thing about Tech.
“In retiring, I won’t miss the all meetings and those things. I’ll miss my interactions with the students more than anything else I can think of,” he said.
Students said they will miss Burnett’s kindness and positivity.
“I absolutely love Mr. Burnett. He is always so kind and I know he doesn’t know me but he always speaks to me when he has the chance,” senior Sydney Minnis said.
Senior Rachel Baker added Burnett is the reason her mom liked Tech.
“When we came to SOAR and he spoke to us, it was the first time my mom was comfortable with me coming to Tech for college,” she said.
To Burnett, Tech’s continuous evolution is what makes the school stand out.
“We are always evolving as a university and we’re willing to admit when we need to grow and learn. The moment we think we know it all, we’re lost. We’re great as we are but we can always be greater,” he said.
As his departure nears, he wants to leave students with one last bit of advice.
“Pursue your dream. In terms of your major and your future, do what you want to do. Don’t let people tell you what to do. Do what you love and don’t let it be about money. You’ll most likely do the same job for a long time so you have to do what you love first,” he said.
At the end of his 42 years with Tech, he expressed his gratitude for the university.
“It was my dream job and career. I couldn’t have scripted it any better,” he said.