Ambrose Burke

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ambrose J. Burke
An older man dressed in Roman Catholic priestly garb holds two books in his hands, which he has folded in front of him, and stares at the camera with a neutral look on his face.
Ambrose Burke, date unknown
Born (1895-11-27)November 27, 1895
Sigourney, Iowa, United States
Died October 6, 1998(1998-10-06) (aged 102)
Clinton, Iowa, United States
Nationality American
Known for 8th President of Saint Ambrose University

Monsignor Ambrose J. Burke (November 27, 1895 – October 6, 1998) was an English professor and Catholic priest who served as the eighth president of Saint Ambrose University (then Saint Ambrose College) from 1940 through 1956. A native of Iowa, he attended the college's high school program, and then the college itself, but was expelled from the seminary for a year and a half by the school's administrator for planning an evening of carousing. He eventually acquired a master's degree and a doctorate in English from Yale University and returned to St. Ambrose in 1921 as an instructor. He was appointed the school's president in 1940 and served for sixteen years, then the longest tenure of any St. Ambrose president. He worked as a pastor and a chaplain for many decades after and remained active until shortly before his death in October 1998, at the age of 102.

Early life[edit]

Burke was born November 27, 1895 in Sigourney, Iowa.[1] At the age of 14 he attended St. Ambrose Academy in Davenport, Iowa, which was then the high school program for Saint Ambrose University (then known as Saint Ambrose College) and has now been merged into Assumption High School. He then moved on to St. Ambrose College, but was expelled in his second year when his plans to go carousing were discovered by the school authorities. He was not permitted to return to the seminary for a year and a half.[2] He was eventually ordained a priest of the Catholic Church in 1921 in Baltimore, Maryland.[1]

Career at St. Ambrose[edit]

Burke had also obtained his master's degree and doctorate in English studies from Yale University[1][3] and returned to St. Ambrose in 1921 as an English instructor, eventually becoming the head of the department.[1] In 1940 he was appointed to the presidency of the college by Henry Rohlman, then Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport,[2] replacing Carl Meinberg after the latter's retirement. Although he claimed original that he did not want the job, as he would have preferred to continue teaching instead, he served in this capacity for sixteen years, the longest tenure in the post until Edward Rogalski's.[3] During his presidency a library, an administrative building (McMullen Hall), and the Christ the King Chapel were constructed and enrollment reached a then-peak of over 1500 students. During this time he also hosted a three-part series on NBC's Catholic Hour entitled Sainthood, the Universal Vocation. He left the school in 1956 after accepting a position as pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church.[1][2][3]

Later life[edit]

Burke remained at St. Mary's until 1973, when he reached his mandatory retirement, and then served for over a decade as chaplain at the city's Mercy Hospital. Although he was officially retired by 1986,[1][2] he remained active into his late 90s and continued to attend conventions on Catholicism in Clinton.[4] For his 100th birthday he celebrated a public mass in Clinton and attended a party the following day at St. Ambrose.[2] He died on October 6, 1998, at the age of 102, in Clinton and was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Davenport.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Msgr. Ambrose Burke". Quad-City Times. Davenport, Iowa: Lee Enterprises. 1998-10-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Monsignor Ambrose Burke: 1895-1998" (PDF). The Ambrose Scene. Davenport, Iowa: Saint Ambrose University. Winter 1999: 17. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 12, 2006. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  3. ^ a b c "Past Presidents". About St. Ambrose. Saint Ambrose University. 2007. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-28. 
  4. ^ "Catholics share concerns". The Daily Reporter. Spencer, Iowa. 1993-05-22. p. 3. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Carl Meinberg
President of St. Ambrose University
Succeeded by
William J. Collins