Honored Photography Professor Passes Away

Gay Burke. Photo by Rachel Dobson
Gay Burke in her Woods Hall office. Photo by Rachel Dobson

TUSCALOOSA – Gay Ann Burke, born December 30, 1946 in Brownwood, Texas, died May 1, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Gay was the first female full professor in the University of Alabama Department of Art and Art History. There, she developed a distinguished fine art photography program. She taught fine art photography to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Alabama for 42 years before retiring in 2015.

When she began her career, photography was not yet accepted as “art”. Some call her the “Mother of Alabama Art Photography” and say she is responsible for raising the profile of photography as an art form throughout the South. Many say her teaching skills were exceptional and that her talent for teaching even showed when she was an undergraduate student herself working with underserved children in San Antonio.

At the University of Alabama, she nurtured many students through their studies and then also helped them establish their careers as artists and teachers.

Gay allowed others to be themselves while always remaining true to herself. She was kind and fair with a great sense of humor and an unforgettable laugh. The world is a brighter place for her having been here. She will be deeply missed by those lucky enough to have had her as a friend.

She is preceded in death by her parents, Macyl and Fleta Maddox Burke; and her brother, Macyl Aubrey Burke.
She is survived by her niece, Lauren Burke; two great nieces, Scarlett Maddox Dedini and Zola Dedini; and many friends and former students across the country who loved her dearly.

Those wishing to honor Gay can make a contribution to any charitable organization working to preserve democracy and social justice in America. 

Reprinted from the Tuscaloosa News.