At a recent gathering at the picturesque Ramble, the Tocqueville Society celebrated the recipients of the Alexis de Tocqueville Community Service Award. Alexis de Tocqueville, a 19th-century French philosopher, ventured to the United States and observed a nation striving for freedom, knowledge, and prosperity through the principles of democracy. This profound insight laid the foundation for his acclaimed work, "Democracy in America." The Tocqueville Society of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County takes its name from this visionary and carries forward the tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, emphasizing the importance of philanthropy and the collective responsibility we share to uplift our community.
Heather Goldstein, Vice Chair of the UWABC board, underscored the theme of unity during the gathering. She evoked the powerful imagery of rowing, where every individual wields an oar but works in harmony with others as part of a greater whole. This notion of unity as a force for good was central to the evening's message. This message was only reiterated as 2023 Alexis de Tocqueville awardees Bob and Glenda Burgin took a moment to address the crowd.
Glenda shared a powerful perspective, reminding us how labels can obscure our view of each other's humanity. When we become entangled in labeling and categorizing, it distracts us from the work needed to enhance our community. The boat does not row as smoothly. Her message resonated with the audience, emphasizing the importance of seeing beyond surface distinctions to connect on a deeper level. Bob contributed an inspiring personal story. He recounted how he first encountered United Way during his service as a young soldier. His story reinforced the idea that anyone can make a connection and share the mission of organizations like United Way with those who may be unfamiliar with it. All it takes is a willingness to reach out and listen.
About the Recipients
Bob and Glenda Burgin are being honored with the Tocqueville Society Community Service Award because of their remarkable commitment and achievements spanning over four decades.
Let’s begin with Bob. His unwavering dedication to United Way began back in the 1970s, prior to living in Asheville. Alongside his deep support of United Way, Bob’s influential career in hospital administration, particularly during his 20-year tenure as CEO of Mission Hospital, left a lasting impact on the community. He has played pivotal roles in numerous organizations, serving on the boards of SunTrust Bank, Forest Commercial Bank, Deerfield Retirement Community, UNC-TV, UNC-TV Foundation, and more. His extensive involvement in the Asheville Citizen-Times Editorial Board, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, and other institutions demonstrates the depth of his commitment. Beyond his leadership, Bob has always exhibited authenticity, humility, and an unwavering dedication to enhancing the lives of those around him.
This is not the first award UWABC has been able to celebrate with Bob. In 2019, UWABC celebrated Bob's induction into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society by Governor Roy Cooper. Among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina is The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. It is awarded to persons for exemplary service to the State of North Carolina and their communities that is above and beyond the call of duty and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.
Glenda Burgin served as an educator at UNC Asheville, teaching Computer Science and regularly troubleshooting for fellow professors. She regularly expresses her views through Letters to the Editor, particularly around the importance of civic engagement and voting. Glenda held volunteer leadership roles in their children’s schools, the Asheville City School Foundation, helped start Habitat for Humanities’ Restore, and chaired Pisgah Legal’s staff appreciation events among many other endeavors.
The couple have made a philanthropic commitment to United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County for more than 50 years and have been engaged members of the Tocqueville Society for 18. In that time they have donated nearly a quarter million dollars to further United Way’s work.
“Bob and Glenda moved to WNC in 1981 and for over 40 years, they have been caring, servant leaders, working to improve the lives and opportunities for all of our people in WNC. They both have given exemplary service in ministry to our citizens, not just in health care, not just in education but in caring for those impacted by poverty and injustice. Their caring leadership has made WNC better!” said Ed and Donna Broadwell, friends and fellow Tocqueville Society members.
Bob and Glenda’s two children, Andy and Carrie Burgin were present for the celebration and had this to say to the assembled crowd, “Growing up with the example that Glenda and Bob Burgin set has made us the most fortunate of offspring. Caring, giving back, and looking out for others are core principles they live and have exemplified for us over our lifetime. We learned not only the importance of service to community but also that “I don’t have time to volunteer” is not an excuse. Even being recognized today, they’d say – “enough about what we’ve done, just get out there and volunteer!”
- 2002 - Buddy and Marilyn Patton & Barbara Blomberg
- 2003 - Janice and Joe Brumit
- 2004 - Jerry Sternberg
- 2005 - Pam and Jim Turner
- 2006 - Heather and Bill Lee
- 2007 - Charlie and Eleanor Owen
- 2008 - John and Diane Teeter
- 2009 - Charlie and Cary Owen
- 2011 - Jim and Robin Stickney
- 2013 - Dot Hamill & Marla and Joel Adams
- 2014 - Barbara and George Groome
- 2015 - Barbra and Keith Love
- 2016 - Ann and Mike Young
- 2018 - David Bailey and Sherie Ryan Bailey
- 2019 - Taylor and Gary Foss
- 2020 - Tracy and Scott Buchanan
- 2021 - Jennie Eblen and Bobbie Eblen
- 2022 - Suzanne and David DeFerie
- 2023 - Bob and Glenda Burgin
Don’t Stop There…
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