Shirley Burton, Former GC
Communication Director, Dies at 83
BY Adventist News Network staff
Shirley Burton, former Seventh-day Adventist world church Communication director who helped shape church public relations, died August 16 at the BryanLGH Hospital in her native Lincoln, Nebraska. She was 83.
According to a family spokesperson, Burton died of complications following a massive stroke she suffered at home the previous Friday.
Burton’s denominational service spanned more than four decades, including stints as professor, dean, editor, and director of Public and Media Relations before her appointment in 1988 as Communication director for the world church, a post she held until 1994.
Burton was a “genuine pioneer” in print-oriented church public relations and, with M. Carol Hetzel, among the “most prominent women in church communication” at the height of her career, said Robert Nixon, who preceded her as Communication director.
CHURCH COMMUNICATOR: Shirley Burton, 83, was a communication director of the General Conference. She died August 16, 2010. [Photo and coloration by Abner Aguilar[Photo: Bermuda Conference]
Burton earned a bachelor’s degree from Adventist-run Union College in 1949, shortly after which she began teaching English, journalism, and speech at Oak Park Academy in Nevada, Iowa. Another education post followed--this time, at Laurelwood Academy in Gaston, Oregon. Colleagues said she was influential in shaping the church communication careers of many of her students.
In 1961, Burton earned a master's degree in Communication from Southern Oregon College. Afterward she studied at the University of Oregon under a fellowship from the Wall Street Journal.
An advocate for better communication between the church and the community, Burton in 1963 accepted a job as director of Public Relations for the Oregon Conference. Six years later, she served in the same capacity for the Pacific Union Conference. While there, she also acted as managing editor of the Pacific Union Recorder, which saw an increase in subscriptions to some 54,000 homes during her tenure.
In her final editorial for the Recorder, Burton envisioned church communication solidifying an Adventist presence in the secular media, writing that Adventists should be known as leaders in humanitarian outreach and mission work and seen as “happy, rejoicing Christians.”
In 1985 Burton accepted a post as associate director for Communication at world church headquarters. Three years later she was elected director of the Communication department at headquarters, which at that time moved from Takoma Park, Maryland to Silver Spring, Maryland.
During retirement, Burton volunteered for Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries.
“Shirley’s example of selfless service for the Savior and faithful communication to the saints will always be treasured in our memory,” said Roscoe J. Howard III, president of the Mid-America Union Conference.