St. Viator students, staff bid final farewell to 'steadying force'
Daily Herald correspondent
The entire student body and every member of the St. Viator High School faculty and staff filed outside of the building Friday. There was no fire drill or emergency evacuation. Participation was optional, but everyone wanted to be there.
They stood in the cold, lined up in front of the Arlington Heights school. They waited, most wearing only sweatshirts, until finally the moment arrived: A funeral procession slowly drove past, a hearse leading the way.
For the students and staff, it was a final farewell to Steve Burks, the former director of buildings and grounds at the school, for more than 40 years. He died Jan. 27, after a battle with cancer. He was 65.
"The teachers invited (students) to come down, it was not required," said school president the Rev. Daniel Lydon, who rode in the procession. "But when I saw those students lined on both sides of the parking lot, completely silent and many with their hands on their hearts, it was really powerful."
The procession made its way to Memory Gardens Cemetery, located nearby on Euclid Avenue in Arlington Heights, where Burks was laid to rest, facing the school.
"Everything that you see that is beautiful and working in that school is because of that man," said the Rev. Corey Brost, a Viatorian priest and former president of the school, who spoke briefly at the end of the procession before offering a prayer.
"Thank you for coming out here," he added, "and honoring this man who never took any credit for his work publicly."
Burks started working at the school in 1981, after serving in the Navy, where he learned his engineering skills. In 1987, when St. Viator merged with the former Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Rolling Meadows, the Rev. Charles Bolser promoted Burks to director.
"He helped us transition to a coed school," said Bolser, president during the merger. "He made the key moves on that, building new locker rooms and bathrooms."
Over the next 12 years, Bolser and Burks worked on projects that included renovating the cafeteria, chapel and science labs, converting the typing room into a computer lab, installing a sprinkler system and converting the back property into athletic fields.
Burks led construction of the high school's first addition, which resulted in its Boler Center, in 2005. The major capital campaign included a multipurpose athletic addition, with a new gym, added classrooms, training rooms, and a fitness center and weight room.
In 2014, Burks served as foreman for the $14 million Shaping the Future with Faith capital campaign. The two-year construction included the remodeling of the Scanlan Center, for students with unique learning needs, but also converted the cafeteria into a collegiate-style dining facility and a $2 million renovation of the performing and visual arts facilities.
Most recently, school administrators credited Burks with helping them safely provide in-person learning during the pandemic.
"He was a steadying force whose tireless work allowed us to keep our faculty, staff and students safely in school throughout this pandemic," Lydon said.