News From Masters
For Estherwood Society member Burma Bissell Bochner ’65, being a Masters alumna is a family tradition. Chances are, when you were at Masters, one of her extended family members, aunts, cousins, nieces or nephews, was there too. In fact, tracing her family tree at the school, the roots begin in the 1930s and extend to the present day.
For Burma and her relatives, giving back is as much a family tradition as attending the school itself. And, in another family tradition, Burma has followed in her mother’s footsteps by making a legacy gift to the school. She is giving a percentage of her estate to Masters in her will.
“My mother, Estherwood Society member Eleanor Merrick Bissell ’33, used to say ‘there are no pockets in shrouds,’” recalled Burma. Burma’s mother was a wonderful influence and role model, encouraging and supporting her children’s philanthropic endeavors. “Mom was so smart. She went to Vassar and was pre-Med. She loved that we had a room in the science building named for our family,” she said. “Mom was a big believer in giving unrestricted gifts. ‘You can’t control from the grave,’ she would say. ‘Trust them to do the right thing.’”
Burma’s father, Frank, also modeled the importance of philanthropy to his children. He was the wrestling coach at The Hill School and generously supported athletics during his lifetime. Burma, her sister, and brother grew up living on the Hill campus in Pottstown, though they spent summers in Rye, New York. It was from her father that she got the name “Burma.” Both her parents were avid sailors, and her father named Burma after the boat he owned when she was born. “Luckily, he no longer owned the boat named The Tarantula!” laughed Burma.
Those who know Burma know she has a wonderful sense of humor. They also know her tireless dedication and unwavering support to the school. For her exceptional support of and service to Dobbs, Burma received The Richmond Bowl in 2010, following her mother, who received it in 2005. Remarkably, she has served as her class agent since her graduation 50 years ago.
Burma enjoyed being back on campus for her 50th reunion weekend, with many of her class and some of her family in attendance. “Masters has the kind of values that should be encouraged today. There is so much diversity on campus. You can just feel the warmth and caring the students and faculty have for one another. We watched out for each other and learned to care about the world. I learned about service to community as a student,” said Burma.
Burma spent many years volunteering for a family shelter in Washington, DC as well as other endeavors. She and her husband Rick are active in local politics, though they concentrate their time in different areas. As a designer of the DC metro subway system, Rick focuses on logistics. Burma’s focus, not surprisingly, is on fundraising. “When I ask people for money, I tell them three good reasons to give,” shared Burma.
“My three reasons to give to Masters? 1. We need to pay it forward for the future students. 2. As my mother said ‘you can’t take it with you.’ And 3. I love the school—it’s a part of my family.”