The guiding principles of Ada Puryear Burnette’s life have been to lead with integrity and to consistently provide effective and efficient service. She was exposed to strong role models, including her successful parents, for as long as she can remember, and from them garnered an inquisitive nature and a desire to always do the right thing. Later on in life, she has striven to be that same kind of role model to her peers, colleagues, and everyone else she encounters. Dr. Burnette is currently utilizing her assets at Valdosta State University, where she works as an associate professor and as the coordinator of off-campus programs, and at Florida A&M University. She is proud that, after more than six decades of professional service, her career continues to be replete with loyalty and high productivity; she is devoted to promoting quality education and services among diverse populations in innovative programs that cross college, school and community boundaries.
During Dr. Burnette’s long career, she has held a number of positions as a teacher and administrator at schools of all levels. She started her journey as a high school mathematics teacher in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1953, and in 1954, became an elementary teacher within the Chicago Public Schools. Four years later, she transitioned to higher education, joining the staff of the University of Chicago as a reading clinician. That set off an era of increasing professional responsibilities with institutions like Norfolk State University, Tuskegee University, and Fisk University, as well as with the Florida Department of Education, for whom she served as the first African-American administrator in the state since the Reconstruction era. Dr. Burnette then spent a few years with Bethune-Cookman University before transferring to Florida A&M University, where she spent decades, culminating in distinguished titles like professor emerita, chairperson of the Department of Educational Leadership, president of the faculty senate, and coordinator of the Masters Level Education Program.
Some of the highlights of Dr. Burnette’s career thus far were creating a PhD program on educational leadership with Florida A&M University and bringing it to universities in Ghana, where she taught the first course in 1996. She also received $23 million through her work with the Florida Legislature for the Primary Education Program, which was the only program to get new funds that year. Additionally, she has written hundreds of speeches, programs, grants, and degree programs, as well as made presentations all around the world.
A lifelong learner, Dr. Burnette has consistently looked for ways to better herself and her knowledge base. She completed postgraduate coursework at the University of Oxford in 2005, at Florida A&M University in 1994, and in elementary education at Chicago State University from 1954 to 1956. She earned a PhD from Florida State University in 1986, a Master of Arts in reading from the University of Chicago in 1958, and a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics at Talladega College in 1953. Notably, Dr. Burnette was the only student to serve in an exchange program during her senior year as an undergraduate, when she attended Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Penn., an all-girls school where about 95 percent of its students were Caucasian. She also earned a number of certifications over the years, including in secondary mathematics, K-12 administration and supervision, elementary education, early childhood education, and elementary and secondary reading, all from the state of Florida between 2009 and 2014.
As a testament to Dr. Burnette’s hard work, dedication and passion, she was named a trailblazer by The Oasis Center for Women & Girls in 2013 and a C.K. Steele Honoree in 2011. In 2010, she was recognized as a service honoree by Phi Delta Kappa, a woman’s month honoree by the Bethel Baptist Church, and an honoree and invited speaker at the University of Oxford in England. Dr. Burnette was further honored with a gold star by the National Hook-Up of Black Women, Inc., inclusion in the Phi Kappa Phi Yearbook, and features in the College of Education Newsletter at Florida A&M University, Black Ph.D. Magazine, the Journal of Societas, Inc., and the Florida Society of Certified Public Managers Newsletter. She also earned an outstanding contributor plaque and award, an achievement award, a henning award, and a certificate of appreciation from the Florida Society of Certified Public Managers. Other notable accolades include the Black Woman Award from The Drifters, Incorporated, the teacher incentive program award from Florida A&M University, the service award from the Tallahassee Democrat, the Florida State University Presidential Medallion from Phi Kappa Phi, and the Black Achiever’s Award from the NAACP, among others.
Today, Dr. Burnette remains very active in her community, including as the president of the Tallahassee chapter of the National Hookup of Black Women.