Thomas F. Burks II
Distinguished UT-Houston Scientist and Academic Leader Thomas F. Burks Dies.
HOUSTON--Thomas F. Burks II, Ph.D., executive vice president for research and academic affairs at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and a professor of pharmacology at the university's Medical School, died on March 2 in Denton while traveling on university business. He had been participating in the annual meeting of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Research Executives when he apparently suffered a fatal heart attack at his hotel.
"This is a tremendous loss for me personally and for the university as a whole," said James T. Willerson, M.D., UT-Houston interim president. "Dr. Burks was an unselfish, caring, dedicated man who made enormous contributions to UT-Houston as an educator, scientist and administrative leader. We shall miss him greatly, and we extend our deep concern and sympathy to his family." Willerson said there will be a memorial service for the university community soon, and a scholarship fund will be established in Burks' name.
Burks, 62, was a distinguished research scientist who had served UT-Houston as its chief academic officer since 1991. Burks came to The University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, where he served as an associate dean for research, and head and professor of the department of pharmacology. Prior to his work in Arizona, Burks was a faculty member at UT-Houston from 1971 to 1977. He began his tenure at UT-Houston Medical School as an associate professor of pharmacology. Later he was appointed professor of pharmacology. Concurrently, he served as a member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He was recipient of the university's first John Freeman Award for Outstanding Teaching. After receiving his postdoctoral training, Burks became assistant professor of pharmacology in 1967 at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and was appointed associate professor in 1971. Burks received his B.S. and M.S. degrees at the University of Texas-Austin and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. He conducted postdoctoral work at the Laboratory of Neuropharmacology at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, England. He received multiple National Institutes of Health research grants in his major areas of interest and expertise: central and peripheral neuropeptide pharmacology; mechanisms of opioid actions; and gastrointestinal pharmacology. Burks had been leading preparations for the 14th World Congress of Pharmacology in San Francisco in July 2002. The congress is the most comprehensive gathering of pharmacological scientists in the world and is conducted only every four years. He was selected president of the congress by the host organization, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). Burks was president of ASPET in 1990 and 1991.
Burks is survived by his wife of 38 years, Dorothy Travis Burks, daughter Kathleen Louise Burks and son Thomas Franklin Burks III, all of Houston; parents Jerry Y. and Goldie M. Riley Burks; brothers Dr. Jerry Y. Burks, Jr. and wife Angie, and Michael R. Burks and wife, Cindy. Visitation was held at 6-9 p.m., Monday, March 5, at J.B. Earthman-Tanglewood, 5740 San Felipe. Funeral services were held at 10 a.m., Tuesday, March 6, at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer. Private graveside services followed in Kountz, Texas. Media Line: 713-500-3030 Media Contact: David Bates or Scott Merville