By Allison Pruitt
The term selfless is often times thrown around, but when it comes to Lou Burney and her involvement and passion for education in the Oxford community, she exemplifies this word well.
Through her love of all things Ole Miss, music, accounting, children and religion, Burney has left a permanent footprint on the lives she affects. She uses her wit, humor and compassion to make her self approachable and in tune with everyone she meets.
Burney grew up in a small town in Mississippi called Ackerman.
“You knew everyone and everyone’s dog,” she laughed.
She came to Ole Miss as an undergraduate and then went to New Orleans for a few years.
Following that, she spent time in Jackson, Miss. Burney first worked as a public accountant and then landed herself at Millsaps College. During that time, Burney met her husband at children’s birthday party.
“We were the two big kids that got invited,” she said.
Burney said that they dated for a long time and are now coming up on their 8th wedding anniversary, and it only made sense to her that they would land themselves permanently in Oxford.
Throughout Burney’s life she has found great joy in the small things in life. After she got her master’s degree in accounting she was asked to teach one course. It consisted of 20 students a semester.
“I loved every minute of it. I could help them understand things that were so basic to me that were new to them. I found that I had the gift to tell it with a story,” she said.
She found so much happiness in the assurance that the students understood the material she was teaching them, and the same goes for Burney to this day.
She explained that she originally thought during retirement that she would teach part-time. But when her dream job of being a full time accounting teacher at Ole Miss opened up, she knew she had to take it.
“This was just my dream job. My alma mater and the place I love more dearly than anything in this world,” Burney said when describing this opportunity.
She has only grown from the experience, she said. Without having children of her own, she has the ability to pour into over 500 students each semester.
Burney is more than just a teacher in the Oxford community. She is a friend and mentor both inside and outside of the classroom. On holidays, if students don’t have the opportunity to go home, she invites them to go to church with her. If you see her celebrating game days in the Grove, she is the first person to invite you to her tent. Her generous and caring soul impacts the lives of everyone around her.
One of her current students, Avery Grace Shaw, couldn’t find enough words to describe her gratitude for Burney. During a time of loss and hardship, Burney made a point to be a friend to Shaw.
“She not only checked in on me like I was one of her own but she was also very understanding inside of the classroom. During a time that could have been filled with stress and overwhelment, Mrs. Burney made me feel like more than just another student sitting in her classroom every week,” Shaw said.
The connections and relationships she makes as a teacher is what keeps her coming back, she said.
Beyond the classroom Burney is very involved in her church.
“My husband and I are members of Oxford-University Methodist. We were married there, and it is a very special place to us,” Burney said.
By being blessed with a musical talent, she has been given the opportunity to teach 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds how to sing.
“When they get up on stage they turn into little angels. It is truly one of my favorite things to do,” Burney said.
Along with teaching these young children, Burney occasionally sings in the adult choir at her church as well.
Burney said she loves all things Ole Miss, but mostly importantly she loves her students.
She explained that one thing she has really enjoyed in the past two years has been learning to play the violin from a previous student that she taught at Ole Miss. Despite it being different from anything else she’s played, she has really taken a liking to it. But as much fun as she is having she has found playing the instrument she finds tremendous gratitude in that fact that she is being taught by a previous student. That student, who now works in the music department, is also getting a degree in accounting. Both of their worlds are colliding through the connections they’ve made in the quaint city of Oxford.
Burney is an example to all of her students. Her desire to be a better person daily has gotten her quite far in life.
“I am grateful for everyday and I am grateful that we get to be here. I truly believe God meant for me to come to Oxford,” she said.