Elizabeth Williams-Burris, the administrative assistant for over five years to University of Dallas Music Director Marilyn Walker, passed away last Tuesday.
Burris, a beloved member of the University of Dallas family, had been struggling with breast cancer for several years. After the cancer was treated, it later returned as she began working at UD. This time, however, it had affected her spine.
Despite the fact that she was in constant pain during her years at UD, she was unfailingly cheerful, Walker recalled.
“She would come to work with a smile even though she was in pain,” Walker said. “So many times, she would be concerned about someone else far less ill than she.”
Burris touched many hearts at UD and had a wonderful relationship with many in the University community.
“Anyone who had any contact with Elizabeth just loved her,” Walker expressed. “She had more friends on this campus than anybody else did.”
Burris had a background in music from the University of Arkansas. After trying to find an assistant, Walker knew at the moment she saw Burris that she was the perfect person for the job.
“I knew that from her background that she would understand the language here,” Walker said. “She had so many great things to her. You could really say that she
was over-qualified for this job.”
Although she was constantly working in the music department, she spent most of her time caring for everyone else. Her sweet and compassionate character was what made her loved by so many at UD.
“She was the strongest person I have ever met,” junior Anne-Marie Dhooghe said. “She was always very happy and very happy to see us. She was like everybody’s mama.”
As an administrative assistant to Walker in the music department, Burris helped with Collegium Cantorum.
“The students are going to miss her a lot,” said Diana Taylor, the accounts payable coordinator in the business office. “She was definitely a blessing to have. She never complained, even when she was in the worst pain. She might as well have reached in and grabbed my heart, because she had it.”
After the pain began to worsen in October of 2011, Burris decided to leave UD in order to rest. During her rest, her pain left her body for some time and she began to feel better. She was able to walk, and her doctors could not explain to her why she had suddenly felt better.
In a letter written about a week before her passing to many of her friends and family, she explained that she was a living testimony of Christ, and that although she had gone through many struggles, she had been truly blessed.
Burris wrote, “When a doctor looks you straight in the eye and tells you that you should not be alive, and there’s nothing medically that they can do to help you; and then that same doctor tells you that God must have something very important for you to do because she can’t explain why you are still alive in the first place, it can be very sobering, to say the least.”
She continued in the letter, “Then the one thing that has plagued your body for years is suddenly, and I do mean ‘suddenly’, gone from your body like it never existed, you better wake up and smell the coffee.”
Her humble letter touched many hearts of friends and family, according to those who received it.
A funeral service was held on Monday at Baker Chapel AME in Fort Worth.
Said Dhooghe, “We are all going to miss her a lot. We pass on our sympathy to her family.”