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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Retired Physician, ‘Patron of Archaeology’ Provides $100,000 Gift for Three Programs

Retired physician Dr. Van Robinson Burnham of Clarksdale passed on his love of archaeology and history to his family, as well as ensuring that others have the resources to explore and learn from these fields.

“I’ve been planning to provide a gift to Ole Miss for some time now,” Burnham said. “This gift is meant to honor Dr. Jay Johnson for his friendship and his great help with local archeology. The gift to the new center honors my Civil War ancestors, including my grandfather and great-grandfather. I also wanted to provide assistance to track because I follow this sport at Ole Miss and ran track during my high school years.”

Johnson and Burnham met around 30 years ago.

“Dr. Burnham is a patron of archaeology in Mississippi in the real sense of the word,” he said. “He has been a major figure in archaeology of the Mississippi Delta and served on the board of directors of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for several decades. This remarkable gift is just the latest chapter in a lifetime spent supporting archaeologists working in the region.”

Burnham was named Mississippi Lay Archaeologist of the Year in 2005 and served as president of the board of trustees for the North Delta Museum for 23 years.

“We are so grateful for this generous and magnanimous gift,” said John Neff, director of the Center for Civil War Research. “These funds will not only allow us to fulfill this year’s plans but also permit us to expand upon them and carry the center well into the foreseeable future.”

Burnham, a Ruleville native, graduated from UM in 1941, and earned his medical degree from Northwestern University in 1943.