Born in Providence, Rhode Island on October 29, 1923, John C. Burgess was a scholar whose career spanned an impressive 55 years and stretched from East to West. It began as a student at Brown University in Providence and concluded as an emeritus professor at the University of Hawaiʻi in Honolulu. After graduating from Brown with an ScB in engineering in 1944, he joined the United States Navy as a lieutenant jg in the Submarine Service. He returned to Brown after his time in the Navy and earned a masters degree in engineering mechanics in 1949. He continued on to Stanford University, where he graduated with a PhD in engineering mechanics in 1955.
He was an instructor, teaching and research assistant at Stanford, Brown and the University of Puerto Rico from 1946 to 1953. From 1953 to 1961, he was a mechanical engineer in the Physics Department at the Stanford Research Institute. During this period, he was also a lecturer at Stanford and the National University of Cordoba in Argentina. From 1961 to 1966, Dr. Burgess was a manager for the Engineering Science Branch of United Technology Center in Sunnyvale, California.
He came to the University of Hawaiʻi in 1966 as a full professor and was the chairman of the mechanical engineering department from 1966 to 1968. He was elected president of the College Faculty Senate and served from 1969 to 1971.
He was also a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and worked as a consultant on noise control and evaluation for the Acoustical Society of Japan (ASJ). As a trusted consultant in both East and West, he was uniquely poised to bring the two together, which he did in 1978, 1988, and 1996. He served as the General Chair of those first three joint meetings of the ASA and ASJ, held in Honolulu. The first of these meetings marked the first time the ASA had ever held a joint meeting — it enhanced the ASA’s stature both at home and abroad. In recognition of his groundbreaking efforts, he was honored by the ASA with a Distinguished Service Citation in 1996 while the ASJ honored him with a Distinguished Service Award in 1978, the Medal of Special Merit in 1988, and another Distinguished Service Award in 1996.
After retiring from UH in 1995, Dr. Burgess served as the Associate Editor for Signal Processing for the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America until 2004.
Dr. Burgess passed away in Honolulu on May 14, 2017, at the age of 93. He is survived by his wife Frances, three children, and two grandchildren.