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JBLM golf pro earns Mortar Board honors

Alumni Achievement Award recognizes Chris Burkhart’s accomplished career

Published: 12:04PM October 4th, 2012

When a friend of Chris Burkhart nominated the lifelong athlete, teacher and coach for a Mortar Board award last year, Burkhart admits she was disappointed when she wasn’t contacted.

But little did she know it takes nearly a year for the National College Senior Honor Society to go through the nominations. Burkhart was contacted in May the following year she was selected to receive the 2012 Mortar Board Alumni Achievement Award.

“I was a little disappointed in 2011, and I was shaking in 2012,” Burkhart said. “It’s a great honor.”

Burkhart joined the Tolo chapter of Mortar Board in 1970 when she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington. In college she participated in field hockey, basketball, track and field, tennis and swimming. She went on to be the first Pac-8 women’s basketball coach at the UW and then she pursued the Women’s Professional Golf Tour. Burkhart was also the men’s and women’s golf coach at Washington State University. For 41 years Burkhart has coached multiple sports. These days Burkhart is a teacher at Lincoln High School, where she also coaches bowling and girls and boys tennis. She is also a Master Life LPGA professional and has taught golf camps and lessons for 11 years at Whispering Firs Golf Course at McChord Field on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The Alumni Achievement Award is awarded annually to extraordinary Mortar Board alumni who demonstrate achievement in their professional lives and represent the board’s commitment to the ideals of scholarship, leadership and service.

“Because of being in Mortar Board and also being a ‘jock’ all my life, I wasn’t a dumb jock,” Burkhart said. “I think I’ve always tried to instill on my students and the students I coach, is that academics always came first, then the athletics.”

Burkhart was recognized at the Mortar Board’s annual national conference in Chicago July 20 to 22, where she mingled among good company. Also recognized alongside Burkhart was UW professor, Dr. P. Dee Boersma who has dedicated decades of extensive research on penguins and other seabirds.

“You think that what you did was OK and then you meet somebody who’s been working with penguins and you wonder how you matched up,” Burkhart said. “But obviously you can’t compare apples and oranges.”

When Burkhart first became involved with Mortar Board in 1970 it was a women’s only organization. After Title IX men were allowed into the charter. It was a neat experience for Burkhart to be a part of an equal playing field, something she continuously strived for during her own playing and early coaching days.

“It was two days of meeting wonderful people and getting accolades for what I had done,” Burkhart said. “In my teaching career and in sports, I knew I was doing the right thing, but to have it validated on the national level is a pretty awesome thing. It’s very humbling.”