Kathy Eneguess, president of White Mountains Community College, loved seeing Ray Burton’s name on her cell phone. Burton would not begin with “hello.” Instead, he would begin, “Now, Kathy.”
Burton would often be calling about a student in need who had come to him for help.
“We would work together and try to find whatever was necessary,” Eneguess said, “A gas card, tires for a student’s car … finding a ride, finding scholarship funding. It was very much about a constituent who had a need, and Ray would ask as many people as necessary to try to meet that need.” And most often, he would succeed.
Burton, the state’s longest-serving executive councilor and indefatigable champion of New Hampshire’s North Country and its people, died in November 2013.
He left, as a legacy, the Raymond S. Burton Scholarship Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to support North Country students and adult learners.
“He was all about education and empowerment through education,” said Peter Benson, senior program officer at the Foundation. He did those things as a matter of course. Joan Day, Burton’s sister, remembers visiting their mother in a nursing home. A nurse approached her.
“If it hadn’t been for Ray,” the woman said, “my daughter never would have gotten into college.”
Those are words — “If it hadn’t been for Ray” — that Day has heard frequently since her brother’s death. Burton was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a degree in education from Plymouth State in 1962. He was a teaching principal in Andover and Warren, taught some college courses, and created the intern program that immersed students in state government and inspired them to enter public service. He was first elected to the Executive Council in 1977.
“Beyond my parents, nobody has had more influence on me than Ray Burton,” said Jeff Woodburn, a New Hampshire State Senator and one of 142 former Burton interns.
“Beyond my parents, nobody has had more influence on me than Ray Burton.”- Jeff Woodburn, New Hampshire State SenatorTweet This
Burton lived his entire life in his beloved family farmhouse in Bath, where he and his siblings grew up, where holiday gatherings were held, and where he died. He left the home and possessions — including his famed antique cars — to be auctioned for the creation of his scholarship fund.
The first of the Burton scholarships is projected to be awarded in 2015. And generations of North Country students will still say, “If it hadn’t been for Ray…”
This article originally appeared in the Foundation’s 2014 Spring/Summer Purpose Newsletter.