Mike Burch - Centennial Alumni Spotlight

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Dec 5, 2022


Mineral Area College honors all veterans—women and men, past and present—for your military service to protect America. Because of your service and sacrifices, we live in peace and enjoy freedom and countless liberties. Gratitude is in order, too, for the military families who made sacrifices while their loved ones worked to protect our nation and our democracy.

G.I. Bill Made College a Reality

Like other first-generation college students, Mike Burch (MAC 1971-73) says, “You see no one in my family ever thought about going to college. I was the first member of my family to attend college—something I never really thought was a possibility for me. I attribute so much to Mineral Area College. The simple fact that a college education was available was one thing. Then, to believe that someone like me could be successful in an academic environment . . . and, that my opportunities for future employment were endless. MAC made a huge difference in my life.”

After his Farmington High graduation, Mike enlisted in the United States Navy and served from 1967 to 1971. His last 13 months of service were in Vietnam in the area known as I corps. The Navy veteran explains, “When I completed my military service and returned home from Vietnam, I took advantage of the G.I. Bill and enrolled in classes at MAC. I became excited about continuing my education and saw this was an opportunity for me to begin a career in helping others.”

When asked about support for the veterans, Mike recalls, “Whenever I was there, I’m not sure whether there was a specific veterans’ organization on campus. Many veterans had already returned home and sought help from each other. They always seemed to be a good group working together. As for how the faculty responded to veteran students, I believe there was a little adjustment for them. The veterans were not only a new type of student, but many of us were also similar in age to some of the faculty. I’m pretty sure I was about the same age as Mr. Bullis, my comp instructor, who was in his first year of teaching. And, it may have been Jerry Walters’ first or second year, too. I felt this became a great asset in our education.”

“After completion of my associate degree, I started working on my bachelor’s degree at Southeast Missouri State University. During this time, I was employed at Farmington State Hospital as a psychiatric social worker,” says Mike. “Then, I earned my master’s degree with a major in guidance and counseling, and, in 1980, I began my career as a counselor for the Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. In 2000, I was named supervisor of the Farmington Vocational Rehabilitation office and served in that capacity until the end of 2003 when I retired from State employment. Then, I began a new chapter in my life in the ministry. From working as a counselor and becoming more in touch with my faith, it just seemed to be the natural next step for me. My reward has always been knowing that I helped someone. As a deacon in the Catholic Church, I was assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish in Park Hills, Missouri. In May 2023, I will have served 20 years in that capacity.”

Mike Burch

Mike shares three MAC memories. “When I first enrolled, my financial assistance through the G.I. Bill was delayed for six months. Without this funding, I couldn’t pay for classes and decided I would go to St. Louis to work in my uncle’s business. So, I dropped out of all my classes. Then, that very night, I received notification that my financial assistance was approved. The next morning, I raced to the office to ask Mrs. Rosenstengel if she had processed my paperwork. I explained my situation and that I did not want to drop out. She told me she had not and ripped up the papers. Then, she told me never to try to drop out again! Her advice, I took to heart.”

He continues, “Students of all ages were in my classes. I remember sitting with recent 18- and 19-year-old high school graduates who were still living at home. Quite often, they had a totally different perspective on education than I did. They were worried they would be grounded if they didn’t get a good grade. In contrast, I was worried I would starve to death! Also, I remember working the night shift and finishing at 7 o’clock in the morning. Then, I would drive to MAC for classes from 8am until 2pm. One time I fell asleep in Mr. Mueller’s World History class. I knew Mr. Mueller from working at a gas station. He knew I was exhausted. So, he told the other students that I was very tired and when they left class to please be quiet so I could continue to sleep. I woke up two classes later looking at people I had never seen before and they just all started laughing. Working and attending college full-time left me sleep-deprived at times. However, without Mineral Area College being available and providing me with direction, I could not have achieved the career that I have had.”