In an effort to continue his legacy of lending a helping hand when needed, officials at Ozarks Independent Living (OIL) in West Plains have established the Bill Burris Endowed Scholarship at Missouri State University-West Plains to honor one of its founding fathers and a true friend of the community.
"Helping people was his whole life," said OIL Executive Director Cindy Moore. "He was a great mentor and an example that a disability doesn't have to stop you from living life. He always moved forward."
Burris, a long-time West Plains resident who died on July 31, 2006, lost his eyesight in an automobile accident while serving with the Army in the 1960s, but he never let his disability deter him from his desire to help his fellow man. With a can-do attitude, he helped others overcome their own obstacles through his service on the Missouri Council of the Blind, the board of the Rehab Services for the Blind, the board of the Wolfner Library for the Blind, the Governor's Committee for the Disabled, and the Visually Impaired Veterans Association.
He also helped organize the local Chapter for the Blind and was instrumental in the formation of OIL 10 years ago, including serving as its board chairman. "He was our board president for years," Moore said, adding, "He was always available whenever we needed anything. He had a lot of experience with disability issues and gave us great direction in our operations."
Burris also reached out to the community through his 30-plus years of membership in the local Kiwanis Club and through his past service on the West Plains R-7 School Board. He also was a member of the Sheriff's Auxiliary.
"Bill Burris was a determined individual who accomplished much in his life despite a disability," said Missouri State-West Plains Director of Development Sue Bunning. "Missouri State-West Plains is honored to have two endowed student scholarships to be awarded in his name each year."
The scholarships will be awarded to two students from the university's primary service area of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Shannon, Texas and Wright counties who are pursuing degrees in human services and helping professions, such as teaching, health care and social services.
For more information about the scholarship and how to apply, contact the Missouri State University-West Plains Financial Aid Office at 417-255-7243. For more information about donating to the university or establishing scholarships, contact the Missouri State-West Plains Office of Development at 417-255-7240.