American Free Enterprise Medalist Remembered for Humble Roots

9/8/2021

Brian and Eileen Burns at American Free Enterprise Day in 2012.When Brian Patrick Burns received PBA’s prestigious American Free Enterprise Medal in 2012 he told family stories that show the American Free Enterprise system at work, and also show the remarkable results of compassionate people supporting education.

Burns died peacefully Aug. 12 at age 85. The proud grandson of a poor immigrant from County Kerry, Ireland, Burns told how his father had to leave school for a couple years to support the family after Burns’ grandfather had his legs crushed by a streetcar.

“Dad returned to school,” said Burns, “thanks to a caring pastor from a nearby church, who, fearing that another bright Irish lad would be lost to poverty, called on the Jesuit fathers. They immediately came to his aid and offered Dad a scholarship to Boston College High School, and later to Boston College.”

Ultimately, Burns’ father graduated from Harvard Law School, as did Burns himself. Thanks to a brilliant career as attorney and entrepreneur, Burns faithfully supported educational, charitable and cultural causes for many years, under “a cardinal principle of our family: ‘To whom much is given, so much more is expected in return.’”

Here’s how he ended his American Free Enterprise message:

Neither I, nor my brothers or sisters, would have had a first-class education if somebody hadn’t reached out to that 10-year-old newspaper boy on the streets of Harvard Square and given him a free education, and thereby ignited a burning flame for him to succeed and to do great things while here on Earth.

In closing, I take special delight in saluting Palm Beach Atlantic University, which stands for the eternal verities of the Judeo-Christian faith handed to us by our Creator and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Each day we should remind ourselves about the eternal truths underlying our Declaration of Independence. They are: a firm belief in God, our country, our faith, our family and our friends. These are the cornerstones of a Free Enterprise System and they must be preserved, protected and strengthened. 

Photo: Brian and Eileen Burns at American Free Enterprise Day in 2012.