AUSTIN, Texas—Across from the tattoo parlors, eateries, and clothing stores of Austin’s eclectic Guadalupe Street is the back of the new Journalism department building where Gene Burd has an office. He’s been a professor at the University of Texas since 1972 and has taught for half a century altogether.
Despite his years of service, Burd never became a full professor. He’s always been one of the lowest-paid journalism professors of any rank at UT.
Nonetheless, almost every day of the year, Burd walked three miles each way from his apartment to campus and toiled in an office crammed with books and papers. He’s long been out of step with the left-wing campus culture.
“But I think far more significant is the production in journalism schools of the liberal mindset that government is god. I mean that. It’s going to take care of you, just confess to it, if I may use that term, surrender to it,” Burd said.
He started out as a journalist, working on newspapers in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Albuquerque, N.M., and Houston.
Burd eventually found a home at UT and has stayed for 42 years. He complains that, these days, students spend too much time texting and not enough time reading outside their own little niches. And he worries how little they know—not only about things that make good journalists, but also good citizens.
“And the power of popular culture is overwhelming,” Burd said. “The late-night comedians, that’s where they get a lot of their political knowledge. … These kids are indoctrinated, but you don’t use that word. And the sad thing is they don’t know it yet, and some of them may never wake up.”
With the end of the spring semester, Burd finished up his final teaching assignment at UT. His retirement takes effect later this summer. Already, he is working on his next project, an autobiography.
“The working title [comes] from my dad, who read to us from the book of Job, long after the Titanic sank and long after our mother died. That verse referred to ‘man is born of woman for a few days and full of trouble.’ And the working title is A Few Days Full of Trouble. And the sub-chapter on UT-Austin is ‘40 Years on the 40 Acres.’ And then the further subtitle: ‘The Snowball in Hell.”
The 40 acres refers to the UT campus, where during most of his long teaching career Burd was disrespected by colleagues but relished by many students.
Hear more of Susan Olasky’s interview with professor Gene Burd on The World and Everything in It: