Edward Burns' gifts to Wichita State will endure for generations

The former Beech Aircraft executive died in February

Edward Burns passed away February 8, 2013.

Edward Burns

Visitors to Marcus Welcome Center on the Wichita State campus usually pause to admire its stately clock tower. On the east side of the tower, a plaque bears the inscription Edward and Betty (Van Arsdale) Burns Clock Tower, recognizing the Shocker friends whose gift provided for it.

   Ed Burns, former president of Beech Aircraft, died in February, eight years after his wife, Betty. Both were strong WSU supporters, giving generously to the Marcus Welcome Center, the president’s home addition and other projects. They also established the Betty Van Arsdale Burns Endowed Scholarship in the College of Fine Arts.

   Burns held high-ranking posts at Beech Aircraft for many years and was president from 1981 to 1982, the last Beech family member to serve in that capacity. His uncle was Walter H. Beech, who founded the company in 1932.

   Born Jan. 15, 1921, in Tampa, Fla., Burns moved to Wichita in 1940 to work in the sheet metal shop at Beech Aircraft. He entered the U.S. Navy in 1943.

   In 1946, on the day following his return to Wichita from his service overseas, he met a young war widow named Betty Price at the Crestview Country Club, which sat on the site that later would become the Marcus Welcome Center. The memory of this important event in their life was one reason they chose to support the clock tower project. They were married in 1949, following Burns’ graduation from the University of Kansas.

   Burns returned to Beechcraft, rising through the ranks and, in 1960, he and his family moved to Boulder, Colo., where he was named vice president of the company's aerospace division. In 1968, Burns returned to Wichita as Beech's vice president of operations. He retired in 1982.

   He and Betty had two children and four grandchildren. Burns died on Feb. 8, 2013, three weeks after his 92nd birthday. Betty, who attended the University of Wichita in the late 1930s, died in 2005.

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