Theta Chi scholarship honors memory of brother killed in service to his country

King and Burke

(From left) Larry King and Ron Burke were childhood friends and brothers in the Theta Chi fraternity at Slippery Rock University. The pair are pictured here at Burke's 1973 wedding. Burke will award the Theta Chi Captain Larry King Memorial Resolute Man Scholarship in his friend’s honor to four SRU students at halftime of SRU’s Sept. 30 football game.

Sept. 27, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Ron Burke and Larry King always looked out for one another. Their childhoods were not unlike many who grew up in western Pennsylvania in the 1960s. They came from same humble, blue-collar upbringing in Butler, attended St. Paul's Catholic school together, played the same sports and even shot their first deer together - yes, the same deer - while hunting alongside each other.

Hoffman

   HOFFMAN

After King enlisted in the Marines and served two years in South Korea, he returned to Butler and Burke convinced him to leave his new manufacturing job at the Pullman Standard and use his GI Bill to enroll at Slippery Rock University, where Burke was a physical education major.

Keffer

   KEFFER

"We did everything together," said Burke, who graduated from SRU in 1973, two years before King earned his degree in geology. "We joined forces and we got through all the struggles of adolescence and early adulthood. We had each other's backs no matter what. I'll never forget him."

After graduation, Burke started a 40-year teaching career in public education, while King returned to the Marines, becoming a pilot before his untimely death in 1981. King was one of six men killed in a helicopter training exercise at the Santa Ana Marine Air Station in Tustin, California, where the CH-46 Sea Knight he was piloting collided with a CH-53 Sea Stallion.

Martin

   MARTIN

"He had courage like you would not believe," Burke said. "He would follow through no matter what the trouble was. He was there for you and I tried to do the same for him."

Miller

   MILLER

Burke and King were also brothers in the Theta Chi fraternity at SRU. Now that Theta Chi is recolonizing its fraternity at the University, Burke thought it would be a perfect time to carry on his friend's memory through a scholarship: the Theta Chi Captain Larry King Memorial Resolute Man Scholarship. Chosen by the Theta Chi advisory board's scholarship committee, which is chaired by Burke, four recipients of scholarships totaling $1,500 were awarded to SRU students this year, including:

  • Allison Hoffman, a junior mathematics major from Pittsburgh.
  • Riley Keffer, a senior interdisciplinary students major from Grove City.
  • Emma Martin, a senior music therapy major from South Lebanon, Ohio.
  • Nichole Miller, a sophomore biology major from Slippery Rock.

The four will be recognized at halftime of SRU's "Salute to Military and First Responders" football game, at 6 p.m., Sept. 30 at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium.

Students applied for the scholarship by answering open-ended questions based on five traits about their academic and vocational plans; their community service and leadership qualities; and their ability to overcome adversity.

Ed Bucha, executive director of the SRU Foundation Inc., helped guide Burke and committee members Paul Herbert,'75, and David Price, '78, through the process.

"We hoped to reach a group of high-performing SRU students where this money would make a difference, and we did," Burke said. "Knowing that as little as $200 could make or break a student's enrollment at the University, and that I'm an SRU graduate who came from humble beginnings, to be able to give back to my alma mater is really special to me."

Burke, a former New York State Teacher of the Year, is retired and living in Naples, New York, where he and his wife moved in 1978 after fulfilling a pact with his Theta Chi brothers, King and Herbert, to attend each other's weddings. In fact, after visiting Canandaigua, New York for Herbert's nuptials, Burke, who married first, and wife Linda, fell in love with the area and later moved to nearby Naples.

King, who never married, was just 30 years old at the time of his death. Burke hopes that King will live on through the scholarship.

"(The scholarship) not only preserves memories but is helping students, and that's as good as it gets," Burke said. "We hope this ceremony will honor all who are giving and have given service, and we hope the scholarship will honor service and leadership and help those in need at SRU."

More information about applying to the King scholarship for 2018-19 will be available at www.sru.edu/scholarships. For more information about contributing to the King scholarship fund, contact Bucha at 724.738.2183 or ebucha@srufoundation.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu