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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Burrisses have supported the arts for 50 years

Bill and Rose Marie Burriss
Bill and Rose Marie Burriss

By LESLIE GRACE| A! Magazine for the Arts | April 30, 2019

Rose Marie and Bill Burriss have been residents of Bristol since they were married in 1964. Bill was on active duty with the United States Army for two years after they were married, serving in Vietnam. For more than 50 years, Bill and Rose Marie have supported the arts first as ticket holders and later as patrons, board members and volunteers. Theresa and William, their children, were recipients of their parents’ love of the arts through lessons in ballet, guitar, piano and violin.

“I got involved in the arts when Theresa began ballet lessons with Bristol Ballet,” Rose Marie says. In the early ‘70s Rose Marie was asked to be a board member of Bristol Ballet when Constance Hardinge was the executive director.

Several years later, she was asked to be on the board of William King Museum. She served in this capacity for many years and was a co-chair and continues to be a supporter of their Mistlete Market.

Rose Marie also served on the board for The Paramount Center for the Arts. For more than 20 years, she has been an active board member and was chair for one term for the Symphony of the Mountains. In 2012, she chaired the YWCA’s Tribute to Women and has been a very active member of Saint Anne Catholic Church and School in many different capacities.

Rose Marie and Bill have supported The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, The Paramount Center for the Arts, the YWCA Tribute to Women, The Virginia Highlands Festival, Saint Anne Catholic Church, Saint Anne Catholic School, the Bristol Ballet, Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy, Bristol Train Station, the Bristol Regional Medical Foundation, Girls Inc., Barter Theatre, Symphony of the Mountains and the International Storytelling Center.

Through BurWil Construction Company, Bill has provided funding for many events for the arts including a stage sponsorship for Rhythm and Roots and Concert Master Chair for Symphony of the Mountains. Together they have hosted events in their home for the YWCA, Girls, Inc., Symphony of the Mountains, William King Museum and Saint Anne Catholic Church.

As a regional supporter of the arts, Rose Marie was recently asked to join the King Institute for Faith and Culture Advisory Board and the James C. and Mary B. Martin Center for the Arts Advisory Planning Committee. Bill has been an active member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board for more than 50 years.

Rose Marie worked as a registered nurse before her children were born. She went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology and a master’s degree in counseling and school counseling from East Tennessee State University. She then worked as a school counselor in Sullivan County and as the director of the Vocational Career Center at Science Hill for two years. She served as the executive director of the Career Center at King University. While there, she started the business etiquette program and taught classes in etiquette for Abingdon Elementary School. In 1995, she completed her second master’s degree in pastoral ministry at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Bill received his degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and joined BurWil Construction, which was started by his father. Bill became president and CEO of the company before he retired. Although now retired, he still maintains an office at the company. Bill received the Jaycees’ Young Man of the Year Award and served as president of the Bristol Lion’s Club.

“I believe it’s important to support and preserve art and music. I never get tired of seeing art or hearing music that we support,” Bill says.

The Burriss’ commitment to the arts has been an ongoing passion for them both. They plan to continue to use their gifts and talents to further expand the arts in the community.

“Fundraising is always a challenge; making sure that arts organizations can operate without a deficit. These kinds of deficits affect programming and accreditation. We are happy that we could help arts organizations through challenging times and that we’ve learned from experience how to support these groups by being effective board members.

“Where would we be if we had no beauty in our lives, performances to attend? We are so blessed to have so much in our region to enjoy. The arts feed our spirits and fill me with gratitude for God,” Rose Marie says.

“We are touched and honored to have been chosen for this award and to have been nominated by Theresa and William, our children,” they say.


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