In Memory of





Obituary for Thomas C. Burke III

THOMAS C. BURKE was an inspired scholar and gave decades of his life to Harvard University. He was a wonderful teacher in the field of South Asian and classical Indian literature and linguistics. Tom helped students with both research and study in multiple disciplines, including Sanskrit, Latin, Italian, and English. He participated in many South Asia-related events at the University and spoke at many India Discovery Center seminars. Led by Tom, the Harvard Mahabharata Seminar, which began in 1992, met almost weekly for twenty-six years; Tom donated much of his personal collection of texts to the Sanskrit Library on the top floor of Widener. He was also a keen member of the Sanskrit Table at the Barker Center, sustaining it with dedication, remarkable learning, and his wonderful genial spirits. Tom was greatly loved by all friends and associates because of his courtesy, gentleness, and profound Humanism. He was a naturally generous man and would assist any learner who asked for guidance; he never expected recompense. In all of this he was a true scholar and enlightened teacher.

Tom was born on March the Fourteenth, 1934, and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He studied Humanities at Reed College from 1951 to 1955 and there, he taught himself Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek. From 1955 to 1957, he studied German and Russian languages at the University of Chicago. He then spent about eight years in Munich and Berlin acquiring the linguistic forms of Proto Indo-European, after which he lived for about ten years in India. He first stayed in Calcutta, later moving to Benares, where he taught German at the Sanskrit College. He also studied Sanskrit with private pandits. He returned to America in 1973 in order to study with Daniel Ingalls, later becoming an administrator at Harvard University. Tom also worked as a part-time instructor in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies where he was a constant and popular member of the Department. After retiring, he taught Hindi at Boston University for several years.

Tom spent the last two years of his life at the Sancta Maria Nursing Home in Cambridge, where he breathed his last on May the Sixth, this year. He is survived by a sister, Jennifer Burke Dudley of Milwaukie, Oregon, a brother, Richard Burke of Gladstone, Oregon, as well as by several nieces and nephews, all in Oregon.