In 1965, Burns completed his doctorate in dental surgery
and set up private practice in Platte Woods, Missouri.
On Christmas Eve of that year, life took a sudden turn.
Burns was drafted into the United States Army. “It was a
real shocker. I had to leave my new practice, my wife
and three small children behind.”
He was commissioned as an Army first lieutenant on
February 4, 1966, and he went on active duty three
months later. After six weeks of basic training in San
Antonio, Texas, he was stationed at Fort Carson,
Colorado. Then in March of 1967, the Army posted him to
Vietnam with the Eleventh Armored Calvary regiment. Dr.
Burns was the only dentist in the regiment of 5,000
troops, and he went everywhere they went. “I was an
unusual dentist for sure.”
Burns returned from Vietnam in 1968 and restarted his
Platte Woods practice while serving in the Army Reserve.
In 1976, he built the medical building at 9 and 45
Highways in Parkville where he practiced with his son,
Dr. David R. Burns, until he retired in 2010. His son
continues to practice from Burns Dental Care, while
Burns’ grandson is a dental school freshman.
Burns remained in the Army Reserve until he retired in
2001 as a full colonel. As a Reserve Officer, Burns
served short tours in Korea in 1988 and Italy in 1995.
He served as dental surgeon for the 102nd Army Reserve
Command headquarters and the 89th Regional Support
Command, and was in charge of the dentists who cared for
soldiers in these units.
Among his many military honors, Burns earned a Bronze
Star medal for his service in Vietnam and the Legion of
Merit medal. “I’m proud of them all,” he said. His
military experience forged an even deeper relationship
to Park. “One of the reasons I agreed to serve as a
trustee was largely because of Park’s reputation serving
the educational needs of the military.”
His long list of contributions to Park includes 9 years
as a Trustee, with two terms as board secretary. His
dedicated work on numerous committees included chair of
the Student Services Committee in 2007 and vice chair of
the Academic Affairs Committee in 2011. He also served
on Park’s Military Advisory Board. He was a member of
the 2005/2006 Master Planning commission, and was
appointed to the current Master Planning Commission in
Burns believes his greatest contribution is being a
local voice for Park within the Parkville community.
“I’m constantly talking about Park and am surprised that
many people don’t realize what we have in our own
backyard,” he said. “Parkville is the home of a
reputable university that is educating students in
campus centers and military bases across the U.S. and
online around the world.“
With the Torchlighter Award, Burns is proud to become an
honorary Park alumnus. As a lifelong Parkville resident,
Burns has always been proud of Park, and no prouder than
he is today seeing it evolve into a nationally renowned
university with an exciting future. “I think of Park
University as a twinkling star that just keeps getting