By Kim Walter
For 10 years Dr. Glenn Burdick was well known as the Winchester City Public Schools superintendent, and while community members may still recognize him, it's no longer because of his educational background.
At 52, Burdick retired from his more than 30-year career with the Virginia public school system, but it wasn't to live a life of leisure. Instead, he decided to pursue a past interest in medicine, and wound up attending Lord Fairfax Community College.
Now, more than five years after completing the nursing program, Burdick has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the community college. For the past two years, he has served as the executive director of St. Luke Community Clinic, a free clinic in Front Royal.
Burdick began teaching at age 20, and was able to retire before the age of 55 because he had devoted so many years to education. Even though he retired, he began a master's program at Shenandoah University to teach students who were interested in administration.
But after a few years, his personal life started to make him rethink things.
"That whole time after my retirement, my wife and I had parents who were all in their early to mid-80s, and their health started to decline right around the same time," Burdick said Monday afternoon while sitting in his office at the free clinic.
In 2004, three years after leaving the school system, his mother passed away and he realized he was "tired of education."
"I'd been doing it my entire life," he said. "I was ready for something different."
In late 2004, Burdick found himself caring for his father, whose health began rapidly declining. For 30 days, Burdick stayed in Portsmouth with his father. During that time, a devastating tsunami tore through Indonesia, and Burdick recalled watching the footage on a hospital TV.
"Something inside me made me wish that I had the skills to go there and help those people," he said.
Burdick's father passed away about nine months later, after receiving care from Blue Ridge Hospice. The attention his father received from the organization impressed Burdick.
For eight years, Burdick served on the LFCC College Board, and in the summer of 2005 was the board chair. It was then that he decided to approach the institution's president about going back to school.
"I figured nursing was the best route to go, because it's a valuable service and by the time I finished the program, I would still be able to work for a while," he said. "But the president kind of looked at me like I was crazy."
Burdick got to work gathering transcripts from every school he'd ever attended, and took prerequisite exams before the August deadline to apply to the program. Thankfully, he got everything done just in time, and was admitted as a full time student.
For the next two years, Burdick worked through the program alongside a variety of students. By the time he finished, he said the experience was fulfilling enough in itself - he wasn't even worried about getting to work.
During his clinical period, he worked at the Winchester Medical Center on the progressive floor, and wound up getting hired as an employee once he became a registered nurse. Though he enjoyed "helping people get back on their feet," Burdick continued to pursue other opportunities.
He learned about a case manager job with Blue Ridge Hospice in Front Royal, and took the position.
"That was very gratifying work, and I can't say enough about the people that run Blue Ridge Hospice," he said.
In 2011, another opportunity presented itself to Burdick, and he felt it had his name on it.
As executive director of the free clinic, Burdick said he knew he'd be able to bring his administrative and health care background together to help manage the agency. Plus, he still gets to fill in as a nurse from time to time.
During his time as superintendent, Burdick often worked closely with community resources such as social services, food banks and the United Way, and understood their importance.
"If a child goes to school hungry, abused or inadequately nurtured, it has a direct impact on their educational performance," he said. "So now I'm on the side of the fence of the agencies I worked with all the time, and I've realized that a lot of these community resources work with the same clientele."
Burdick added that in both leadership roles, it was important to work with and listen to people while making sure they get all the available services.
Since attending LFCC, Burdick has established the Margaret T. Burdick Memorial Nursing Scholarship, which has benefited about half a dozen nursing students who may not otherwise be able to afford the program.
"My mother was a nurse up until she got into her 80s," he said. "So this scholarship is for a similar bright, caring person who needs a little help. I think she'd be happy to know that every recipient has been very appreciative."
Burdick knows choosing LFCC was the best decision he could have made. He said two key factors led him there - accessibility and affordability. He also credited the "competent and compassionate" faculty and staff with making his career change possible.
"More and more, people in their 40s and 50s will have to get used to the idea that they may want to remake or reinvent themselves, and going back to school has to be part of the equation," he said. "Both for people like me and students who have just finished high school, LFCC is a true asset for this community. I am delighted it was there when I needed it. It changed my life."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org