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Dartmouth Mourns the Passing of Whitey Burnham

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Whitey Burnham, 9/8/23-11/18/08     By Kawakahi Amina '09
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

HANOVER, N.H. — Long-time Dartmouth administrator, coach and friend of Dartmouth College Alden H. “Whitey” Burnham passed away Tuesday afternoon at the age of 85.

Burnham arrived at Dartmouth in 1960 as the school’s coach for lacrosse and soccer, and the following year became the Big Green’s first and only three-sport coach when he took over the wrestling program. He remained head coach of all three sports through 1966 before focusing on lacrosse and soccer again. In his nine seasons as a Big Green coach, he had 14 All-America selections in lacrosse and four more in soccer, plus guided three Ivy League championship teams — lacrosse in 1964 and ’65, and soccer in 1964.

In 1969, Burnham moved into an administrator’s seat as the assistant director of athletics at Dartmouth, succeeding current commissioner of the Southeast Conference, Mike Slive. He was appointed the associate director of athletics for development and alumni affairs in January 1983, with responsibilities that included directing the Athletic Sponsor Program — which at the time had more than 600 members — and overseeing the many Friends’ organizations affiliated with Dartmouth athletics. Burnham retired from his post on June 30, 1989 after 29 years as a member of the athletics department staff.

A past president of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), Burnham was secretary of the NCAA soccer rules committee for seven years and chairman of the All-America selection committee for 14 years. He served as vice president of the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association and had been president of the New England Intercollegiate Associations of soccer, lacrosse and wrestling while at Dartmouth.

“Whitey was a beloved collegue and friend,” Dartmouth Director of Athletics and Recreation Josie Harper said quietly. “He will be missed by so many. He has had such a positive influence on generations of people. His wit, his love for his players, family and friends were his ‘trademark.’”

A 1948 graduate of Springfield College, Burnham played on the undefeated and untied soccer teams that won back-to-back national championships in 1946 and ’47. He received his master’s degree from Springfield in 1952.

Burnham, an adopted member of the Dartmouth class of 1946, began his coaching career as head coach of soccer and wrestling at the University of Delaware where he was appointed assistant professor of physical education. He remained at Delaware for 12 years before being hired at Dartmouth in 1960.

As founder and director of the state wrestling tournament for secondary schools in Delaware, Burnham received the State Association’s honor award in 1959 for contributions to that sport. In 1971, Burnham received the New England Intercollegiate Soccer Association’s award for outstanding service to that sport. In 1968, he received a letter of commendation from the NSCAA, and in 1974 the Honor Award of the NSCAA, the highest recognition bestowed by that organization. A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Burnham was honored as a Wearer of the Green by Dartmouth as well.

Burnham Field, Dartmouth’s home for the men’s and women’s soccer teams, was dedicated this past spring in honor of Burnham as requested by lead donor Stan Smoyer ’34. Smoyer’s sons, David ’63 and Bill ’67, were coached by Burnham, and David earned All-America honors as a goalkeeper. The stadium features a top-quality natural grass field with state-of-the-art drainage, bleacher seating for 1,600 spectators and additional seating on the grass berms surrounding the field.

Burnham is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joanne, and their two children, Fred and Janice. Since his retirement, he and Joanne continued their enthusiastic support of Big Green teams, attending many of the college’s athletic events.


The family has announced a memorial service and celebration of his life on Saturday, December 20, 2008, at 3 p.m. at the Rollins Chapel on the Dartmouth campus.

In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested contributions to a charity of your choice in honor of Alden Burnham. This was requested by Whitey before his passing. The family indicated that he would be especially appreciative of contributions to organizations that help people, those that support children and young adults, and any organizations or groups that promote sportsmanship and fair play — ideals Whitey believed were very important.

Cards. notes and remembrances may be sent to Joanne, Janice or Fred at the following addresses:

Joanne Burnham (wife)
12 Mitchell Lane
Hanover, NH 03755

Janice Burnham (daughter)
2230 Homestead Farm Road
Free Union, VA 22940

Fred Burnham (son)
59 Hunter's Ridge Road
Concord, MA 01742