In Memoriam: Robert E. Burke, MD

January 3, 2018
Robert E. Burke, MD

Dr. Robert E. Burke died on January 1, 2018 at the age of 68.   He lived in Tenafly, NJ.  He graduated form Dartmouth College in 1971 and obtained his MD from Cornell University Medical School in 1975.  He received training in Neurology and Clinical Movement Disorders at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and was subsequently appointed to the faculty where he spent his entire professional career.  He was the Alfred & Minnie Bressler Professor of Neurology and Pathology & Cell Biology. He served as Director of the Laboratories for Research in Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders and led the NIH supported Morris K. Udall Research Center.  He had expertise in clinical movement disorders and the neurobiology of Parkinson’s Disease and contributed to the training of many students, residents and fellows.  His research interests related to the molecular basis of neuronal programmed cell death in dopamine neurons and the neurobiology of their axons.   He held leadership positions in the American Academy of Neurology, the Movement Disorder Society and the World Parkinson Congress.  He was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the recipient of  awards from the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. 

Above all, he was deeply devoted to his family and was always able to gracefully balance his professional career with a rich family life.  He was incredibly supportive of his wife and her medical career, and they raised their two wonderful children with inseparable partnership. More recently he was an amazingly involved grandfather, and was enjoying sharing his many interests with his two young grandsons. He loved gardening, woodworking, photography, sailing, hiking, cycling, and scuba diving, and was also a voracious reader - his intellectual curiosity was insatiable.

He is survived by his wife Dr. Sharon Wardlaw; his daughter, Michele Pellegrini and Michele’s husband, Brian Pellegrini and their children, Nolan and Leo; his son Dr. Daniel Burke and his companion Dr. Sophie Miro-Fortier; his brothers Bill, Tony, and Michael and sisters, Carol, Kathy and Beatrice.  A memorial service will be held at the Frank Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan on Sunday, January 7 at 1:30 pm.  In lieu of flowers, please consider sending a donation in Bob’s honor to the Movement Disorders Division, made payable to the Trustees of Columbia University and mailed to Columbia University Medical Center, Office of Development, 516 West 168th St. New York,NY 10032.