Robert (Bob) Burns was born in Flandreau in 1942. He is the youngest of six children of the late Joseph and Marie Burns. He developed a habit of participation and assumption of leadership roles while attending Flandreau High School. His high school leadership roles and academic success paid dividends in the form of a four year Briggs Scholarship awarded him by SDSU in mid-summer of 1960.
Bob graduated from SDSU in June of 1964 with a BS in Political Science and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the US Army through ROTC later that summer. The spring of 1964 also marked his marriage to Donna Bozied. The University of Missouri-Columbia awarded him a full ride three year National Defense Fellowship in their political science doctoral program.
Bob subsequently earned a MA (1966) and a PhD (1973) in Political Science from the University of Missouri- Columbia with the financial support of his Fellowship and Donna’s earned salary. Bob reported for active duty at Ft. Benning, Georgia as an officer in the US Army. Bob’s two year active duty time (1968-1970) included one year as an Army Captain in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster while serving in Vietnam.
While serving in Vietnam, Bob was invited by his undergraduate mentor, Professor Hendrickson, to join the political science faculty of SDSU for a one year term appointment. His one year term appointment was transformed into a 38 year professional life due to some fortunate circumstances and the endorsement of students, colleagues and superiors. During his tenure at SDSU he received many teaching awards including being named College of Arts and Sciences “Teacher of the Year” seven different years, Burlington Northern Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching (1989), Distinguished Professor of Political Science in 1994 by the SD Board of Regents and 1995 South Dakota Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching. He also served as department head for the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy and Religion for nearly 20 years. He served as Acting Director of the USD Farber Center from January to July, 1998 while on leave from SDSU. During the last ten years of his tenure at SDSU he served first as Director and later as the first Dean of the SDSU Honors College while continuing his teaching and department head duties. He also assumed many leadership roles on several key campus organizations during his SDSU tenure. Early in his career, his nine month teaching contract afforded him an opportunity to do summer policy research for Governors Kneip, Wollman and Janklow and serve as a Humanist- in- Residence for the SD Committee on Humanities three separate summers.
Upon his retirement in June, 2008, the SD Board of Regents honored him with the titles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Dean Emeritus of the SDSU Honors College. He was also honored as a SDSU Distinguished Alumnus for Service to Education by the SDSU Alumni Association in 2008. He continues to be a well-known print and broadcast media commentator on South Dakota and national government, politics and legal issues. Bob has also received recognition for community service. He served on the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education (1997-1998) and he continues service as a SD Commissioner on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (1996-present). His belief that democracy requires active citizen engagement and a strong civil society has prompted him to serve on and sometimes lead multiple state and local civic and government boards, commissions, task forces and councils during his professional life. That service continues into retirement as evidenced by his chairing the SD Budget and Policy Institute and the SD World Affairs Council in addition to regular teaching of OLLI courses in Sioux Falls and Brookings.