Former Penn Rower Joe Burk Passes Away

PHILADELPHIA - Penn Athletics Hall of Famer and rowing legend Joe Burk passed away January 13, comfortably in his home after a painful period following an accidental leg fracture that required orthopedic repair with ensuing complications.

A champion rower and 1939 recipient of the Sullivan Award as the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States, Joe Burk left his mark on the sport of crew as both an athlete and a coach.

As a competitor, Burk was the national single sculls champion four years in a row (1937-40) and two-time winner of the Diamond Sculls at England’s Henley Regatta 1938-39). He captained Penn’s crew team of 1936.

He returned to coach at Penn in 1951, and remained through 1969. Overall, he coached three crews at England’s Henley Regatta with his 1955 squad emerging victorious. His 1967 varsity eight won the IRA championship, the first time Penn had won the title since 1900.

Burk was also a training innovator, initiating weight and interval training programs that were not commonly in use in the 1950s and the 1960s. He once described himself as a coach by saying: “I’m rather exacting in my demands and require utter dedication. I don’t get out the whip and beat them, but they have to want to row very hard and very much.”

There will be no services at Burk's request. His daughter, Kathy, has stated that her father would have wanted any gesture that any might wish to make in his honor and memory to be made to Penn Rowing. For further information please contact the Penn Athletic Development office at 215-898-4717.

For more on the rowing career of Joe Burk, read row2k’s exclusive by Peter Mallory, C'67,by clicking here.