Since its dedication in 1971, Burden Hall has been the gathering place for hundreds of solemn and joyous observances, addresses by scores of visiting luminaries from across the globe, daily classes and lectures, and the annual antics of the student-produced “HBS Show.” When it opened, Burden was the largest auditorium at Harvard, with 819 fixed seats arranged in amphitheater style around a raised stage and additional flexible seating that increases its capacity to 1,019. Designed by Lincoln Center architect Philip Johnson to accommodate a variety of HBS and University functions, Burden can be subdivided into two or three smaller units by utilizing movable, soundproof partitions. Each section can function simultaneously for lectures, audiovisual presentations, class discussions, or exams. The building also houses two seminar rooms and a lower-level reception hall and portrait gallery featuring images of the Burden family. The east and west lobbies are brightened by four remarkable tapestries created by artist Joan Miro and a sculpture by Michio Ihara in the auditorium.
Burden Hall was made possible through the generosity of a distinguished family with extensive Harvard ties. In 1968, Mrs. William A.M. Burden of New York City, together with her sons William A.M. Burden Jr. (Harvard 1927) and Shirley C. Burden, provided the funding for a state-of-the-art auditorium at HBS to honor her late husband William A.M. Burden (Harvard 1900) and her late grandson William A. M. Burden III (Harvard 1953, MBA 1955). At the time the gift was announced, another grandson, Ordway P. Burden (Harvard 1966, MBA 1968), was a student at HBS. Although Mrs. Burden did not live to see the building completed, her remarks at the cornerstone ceremony in 1968 eloquently expressed the sentiment behind the gift. “The men whose memory is preserved by this building had, I think, somehow finished their jobs sooner than most,” she noted. “I believe they are worthy of having their names made, in this way, a part of the Harvard tradition. And I am genuinely moved by that honor.” Accepting the gift, Dean George P. Baker voiced the School’s “profound gratitude,” noting the importance of having a building on campus “capable of seating more than an entire MBA class at one time.”
Both William A.M. Burden and his grandson died at the untimely age of 32. The elder Mr. Burden, who was the First Marshal of his Harvard class and captain of the 1899 football team, had headed a metal manufacturing concern in the Cleveland area. William A.M. Burden III was a journalist who worked for The Washington Post.
Mrs. Burden had a lifelong interest in Harvard and a deep concern for its future. In addition to her Harvard ties through the Burden family, Florence Burden (née Florence Vanderbilt Twombly) was the daughter of Hamilton McK. Twombly, an 1871 graduate of Harvard College. The Burdens’ son A.M. Burden, Jr., served on the HBS Visiting Committee from 1962 through 1968 and was honorary curator of aviation literature at Baker Library. Subsequent generations of the Burden family also have been generous to Harvard, endowing a scholarship fund at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, establishing the Shirley Carter Burden Professorship of Photography, and contributing annual gifts to the Graduate School of Design through the Florence V. Burden Foundation.
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