BFS
BFS Turns 150
Burdsall

Remembering Benjamin R. Burdsall, 1903-1968

Got to thinking about Benjamin R. Burdsall this week as our Upper School faculty has been doing its own thinking about recipients of our annual awards for the Upper School closing ceremony on June 9. Today seems a good day to remember who Mr. Burdsall was for so many at BFS and why BFS gives a scholarship in his memory. BFS encourages the entire BFS community to be deeply involved in and concerned with the life of the school. Among the myriad opportunities for involvement are celebrating reunions at Alumni Day and attending special events like the Spring Gala, giving annually to the Brooklyn Friends Fund, volunteering as a PAT class parent, a Brooklyn Friends Fund class agent or as a guest speaker at BFS – contact the Development and Alumni Office at 718-852-1029, ext. 211 or ext. 208 to learn about such opportunities and much more. BFS also encourages giving to the school to honor and celebrate special people and milestones in our lives. 

One special gift celebrated a 50th reunion and was sufficient to create a separate endowment fund which has enabled BFS to annually remember our 1934-1968 English teacher and Upper School Head Benjamin R. Burdsall, 1903-1968. Thanks to the generosity of the BFS Class of ’49 in celebration of its 50th reunion, BFS has given an Upper School junior the Benjamin R. Burdsall Scholarship of $500 towards his/her senior year’s tuition for the last decade. The recipient demonstrates the commitment to public service that Mr. Burdsall encouraged in his students and the scholarship helps BFS honor its excellent students of today who emulate the enduring values of a Brooklyn Friends education, the same values Mr. Burdsall helped his students develop in themselves. Through his actions and words and his deep sense of responsibility and commitment to international law and peace, Mr. Burdsall guided his students at BFS to a deeper and more internalized understanding of Quakerism, of what the values of integrity and excellence, compassion and community can help achieve for our own selves and for our world.

After his death, the Class of ’69 included this line in their yearbook: “Benjamin R. Burdsall was a man of that peace and gentleness which inspired love in all who met him.” One ’69 graduate included the following on his personal page of that yearbook: “Mr. Benjamin Burdsall – The only person I had ever met who always had time to guide and advise no matter how complicated or trivial the question or problem.” In the words of his student, the late L. Ronald Scheman ’49, founder of the Pan American Development Foundation, “I am sure today Mr. Burdsall would be deeply involved in getting students to address the issues of climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, and education. In all, he was a man who, with his gentle, caring manner, opened the world to us and wanted to help his students to be positive, constructive global citizens. If he had the opportunity to talk to BFS students today I am sure he would ask them about their primary concerns for our country and for ensuring the health and safety of our planet. And he would give them a lot to think about to help them define the vision for their lives. “

For generations at BFS, Mr. Burdsall inspired many of his students and the Class of ’49 was further inspired to give that inspiration back to BFS. How are we inspired today, individually and collectively, and by whom and by what? 

Mr. Burdsall must have had a fine sense of humor as shown
on the right in this photo from a 1940s BFS Variety Show

In Meeting
by Benjamin R. Burdsall
published in Friends Journal, June 15, 1968

My ship is now in harbor;

Its sails are furled,
And gentle waves
Make peaceful murmurings
Along the shore
My friends are here to greet me
And to tell
Of what is closest to their hearts
Now that the journey of the week is o’er.
Tomorrow I shall once more set the sails
And head again for an uncertain sea,
But I shall have a compass and a star
And vision that this hour has given me.