It is with deep sadness that the Department of Africana Studies (formerly the Black Studies Program) mourns the passing of Yolanda Gale Burt. Professor Burt joined the Black Studies Program as a part-time instructor under the late Dr. Michael Williams, former director of Black Studies. During his tenure, she taught BST 350: African American Family Life, a foundational course for the major, which was very popular with the students. Under the leadership of Dr. Thomas L. Bynum, Professor Burt’s teaching assignment expanded to include BST 200: Introduction to Black Studies. Her unwavering support and commitment to the Black Studies Program were made evident through her teaching, service work and participation in programmatic activities.
As a part-time instructor for the Black Studies Program at Cleveland State University for over seven years, Professor Burt garnered an outstanding reputation with her students. Her “respectful, supportive, unhurried, quiet and gentle manner” put students at ease and created a positive learning environment. Professor Burt took pride in mentoring students and helping them learn. Students stated how great she was as an instructor and how they enjoyed her class. Her belief that nothing is impossible and her dedication to create a conducive learning atmosphere for all of her students stand as a testament to her faith, as well as a hallmark of her personality and professionalism.
Professor Burt’s steadfast devotion to the Black Studies Program was remarkable. While service work was not required of part-time instructors, Professor Burt helped to revise the curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts in Black Studies, assisted with the goals and learning outcomes for Black Studies General Education courses, and created an online course. Professor Burt represented and embodied the epitome of collegiality. When I announced to her this past spring semester that the Program would become the Department of Africana Studies, she was overjoyed.
From her participation in the Kuumba Arts Festival to the student-led Umoja Roundtable to Black History Month programs, Professor Burt was an ardent supporter of programmatic activities hosted by the Black Studies Program. Guided by the belief that Black cultural heritage was crucial to a positive self-identity, her dedication to the Mt. Pleasant Heritage House Cultural Arts and Resource Center, an organization founded by her parents, enshrined and encapsulated that view through the numerous cultural and educational programs the Center sponsored. Professor Burt believed that formal learning should extend beyond the classroom into our civic and social organizations and clubs so that the broader Black community could benefit.
Professor Burt’s life was rich beyond the boundaries of the University, which was seen in her devotion to her family, church and friends. She was a deeply spiritual person, and her quiet, dignified and well-ordered life touched many. Professor Yolanda Gale Burt will be broadly and deeply missed. The Department of Africana Studies will miss her smiling face and unwavering support. It is with deep respect that the Africana Studies faculty and staff express our heartfelt sympathy to her family.
Thomas L. Bynum, Ph.D.
Chair and Associate Professor