A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 22, in Memorial Church for Patrick “Pat” Burke, who worked in Stanford’s Department of Electrical Engineering for nearly 25 years, most recently as the department’s network and systems manager.

Pat Burke

Patrick “Pat” Burke (Image credit: Courtesy Burke Family)

Burke, who died unexpectedly last week, was 45.

Several members of Burke’s extended family will be attending the service.

Burke was born in Lynwood, Calif. (Los Angeles County). The Burke family, which lived in Compton (Los Angeles County) and later Vista (San Diego County), moved to New Brunswick, Canada, when Patrick was 11 years old. He had eight brothers and sisters, including a twin sister.

Louise Bray, one of his five sisters, said her brother was an avid hockey fan who started playing the sport as a child and would play with friends whenever he could. After graduating from high school in 1984, he moved to California, where he had recently vacationed, she wrote in an email message.

“He was an avid guitar player and had a tremendous love of music, all genres,” Bray wrote. “He also loved the outdoors, especially camping and hiking, and was a NASCAR fan. Patrick was a very special person and a wonderful brother. We will all miss him.”

Burke began working at Stanford in 1985, as a member of a maintenance crew working in the School of Engineering, where his assignments included pulling weeds at field sites and helping painters during building renovations.

That same year, Burke began working as a technician at Stanford’s Center for Integrated Systems (now the Paul Allen Center for Integrated Systems), where he helped reinstall research equipment and get the Integrated Circuits Laboratory (now the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility) up and running after it was relocated from the McCullough Building. In 1987, he was promoted to senior science and engineering technician.

While working at Stanford, Burke earned an associate’s degree in science (engineering technology) from DeAnza College (a community college in Cupertino) in 1992 and a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology, with a minor in business administration, from San Jose State University in 1998.

In 1998, Burke began working at the Computer Systems Laboratory, where he provided computer and network support to faculty, staff and students as a senior systems software developer.

In 1999, he became the systems and network manager for the department. Burke moved into an office in the David Packard Electrical Engineering Building, which had opened that same year.

“Pat has been an incredibly conscientious, much appreciated contributor to and friend in our community here, and his loss leaves us all grieving,” Mark Horowitz, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering, told the department last week in an email announcing the sad news of Burke’s death.

“In situations like this, I am glad we’re in a department where people really care about each other, and that we will rally together to help us all get through this difficult time,” he wrote.

Horowitz also reminded everyone that those who need support dealing with the loss can seek help at several offices on campus, including the Stanford Faculty and Staff Help Center, the Office for Religious Life and the Counseling and Psychological Services center at Vaden Health Center.

Colleagues remembered Burke as a devoted father, an avid hockey fan and someone who loved hiking, camping at Yosemite National Park, running and working out. He took many fitness classes on campus and played on a Stanford softball team. He also played and coached hockey as a club sport at Stanford.

Burke enjoyed playing poker with fellow commuters on the long train ride home to Tracy on the Altamont Commuter Express. He created a blog, Pocket Pat’s Poker Blog, to describe “the daily adventures of some of the games I play.”

Colleagues described him as a “caring person who had a big heart,” someone who went out of his way to help anyone who needed help.

Vijay Parameshwaran, a graduate student in electrical engineering, remembered the day Burke came to his aid while he was working on his laptop on the second floor of the Packard building and the Internet was not working properly.

“Pat was able to help me fix the wireless router there,” Parameshwaran wrote in an email message. “He was very knowledgeable about the system, and he was very nice during the fixing as well. I noticed in his office that he had several pictures of his daughter; he must have loved her very much. I will miss Pat. Whenever I use the wireless Internet on the second floor of Packard, I will have him in my thoughts.”

Colleagues said Burke had a strong commitment to work and continued taking classes to advance his learning. They said he also truly enjoyed his colleagues.

A pleasure to work with

“His humor, enthusiasm and good nature made him a pleasure to work with, and I knew the department could count on him in crises,” electrical engineering Professor Robert Gray wrote in an email message.

Gray said Burke was responsible for maintaining the front office machines in the department and for overseeing its computer network. He also was in charge of the computing facilities used for classes, and led the effort to find gifts and donations to keep the department’s undergraduate labs “second to none,” in the words of ABET Inc., a federation that accredits university programs in applied science, computing, engineering and technology. Burke helped Gray and John T. Gill III, an associate professor of electrical engineering, to create much of the department’s website, and to create and maintain its databases for courses, bulletins, staffing and scheduling.

“When computers crashed, systems were invaded, networks were compromised and deadlines were imminent, he was always there helping to resolve the problems with a minimum of fuss,” Gray said.

“He and his cohorts in the Gates Building and in the Center for Integrated Systems helped the Electrical Engineering Department navigate the maze of modern operating systems, networking and security. In my view, they gave us the best computing environment in the university and among competing institutions, for a fraction of the cost in terms of departmental money, faculty lost time and personal frustration common with many information technology operations. How one man was able to do so much so well for so long will never cease to astonish me.”

During the last year, in addition to serving as the network and systems manager for the department, Burke was also managing  its four-person network/systems team.

Joe Little, a system software developer in the department, described Burke as the “quintessential team player,” someone who always put the good of the group first.

Little, who started working with Burke more than 10 years ago, said he had a “go-with-the-flow” attitude.

“In our group, Pat was the relaxed, observing type of person,” Little said, adding that Burke was an affable person, someone who kept a cool head when things went wrong.

Little, who is from Pennsylvania, said Burke, a San Jose Sharks fan, liked to tease him when the Pittsburgh Penguins had a bad game.

Bob Wheeler, a zone manager in Buildings and Grounds Maintenance, said he still remembers the day – years ago – he saw Burke behind the Center for Integrated Systems practicing hockey on his lunch hour with tennis balls.

“Pat had rollerblades on and he was practicing making shots on goal against the loading dock,” he said.

Wheeler, who has known Burke for nearly 25 years, also served as his supervisor for about eight years when Burke worked in the lab maintenance group in the Paul Allen Building.

He said Burke always had a smile on his face and liked to joke around with the people he was working with – or helping. If someone complained about having problems with the lab equipment, Burke would say, with a smile or a laugh, “Maybe you’re not talking to the machine right” or “What did you do to break it?” Wheeler said.

Samar Fahmy, a graduate admissions specialist in the Electrical Engineering Department, said Burke was quick to share his coffee creamer, cookies, snacks and gum.

“I know these are small things, but it was the small things that made working with Pat that much better,” she wrote in an email. “I loved working with Pat, even if the work was just correcting the website. Every minute interacting with him was fun and productive, whether it was running, getting breakfast (we’d split the breakfast burrito at Bytes Café in the Packard Building) or lunch, or working on ways to improve the website or fix my computer.”

Nick McKeown, an associate professor of electrical engineering and of computer science, said Burke was a big help to him and his group on many occasions, particularly during the last two years as he helped them deploy new technology in the computer network for the department.

“Pat was always helpful, kind and gentle, always trusting that we knew what we were doing when – if the truth be told – he knew far more about what he was doing than we did,” McKeown wrote in an email message. “We will miss Pat and our thoughts are with his friends and family. In these moments we are lost for words, incredulous that someone in our midst can be in such distress without us knowing.”