The Board of Trustees of AdventHealth University (AHU) have given Ernest Bursey, M.A., Ph.D., the title of professor emeritus, an honorary title conferred by the University to show respect of a distinguished career.
While Bursey’s career as a minister and educator officially started five and a half decades ago, his roots as an informal educator go back to his high school years at Thunderbird Academy where he assisted the science and math teacher. During his senior year, Bursey also assisted the Bible teacher and sometimes even filled in as instructor. After graduating from Thunderbird Academy, Bursey went on to attend Pacific Union College (PUC) with the aim of becoming an academy science teacher. While studying at PUC, he found himself in the familiar role of lab instructor in the Chemistry Department. However, the memory of teaching Old Testament history to 30 freshmen in academy never strayed far from his mind. He decided on a double major in religion and chemistry.
Bursey earned his bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and religion at PUC, and his master of divinity at Andrews University. He started pastoral ministry in several California churches. After six years, he returned to the classroom as a religion teacher at San Pasqual Academy and then Walla Walla University. While teaching at Walla Walla, Bursey earned a second master’s degree and a doctor of philosophy in New Testament Studies from Yale University. His 24 years at Walla Walla were spent serving in several different capacities, culminating in the role of dean of the School of Theology.
In 2001, Bursey accepted a call to AHU as the first full-time religion professor. For the next 20 years, he played an instrumental role in selecting and mentoring members of the AHU religion faculty. He also spent 18 years as chair of the University’s Faculty Rank and Promotion Committee that, with the University administration, developed the standards for academic excellence that have guided the school from its early years as a junior college to its present standing as a health science university offering doctoral degrees.
Prior to Bursey’s arrival, the University already had courses that were foundational in the development of a future health care professional. Building on those courses, he incorporated classes that taught a wider view of the cultures and belief systems a health care provider might encounter in the clinical setting. When the University started its first graduate program in 2008, there was a conscious decision to embed religion courses into the curriculum. It was recognized that, like the undergraduate religion courses, these should have true impact and meaning in shaping a health care provider as they move into positions of leadership.
“The religion courses created for our master of healthcare administration [MHA] degree give me a great sense of accomplishment. In our undergraduate degrees, we require the Philosophy of Healthcare class that gives students a perspective on who they are in their health care journey. In our MHA degree, we extend that journey by requiring courses such as the Role of Fidelity and the Exercise of Power, and Identity and Mission in Faith-Based Healthcare. These courses are meant to keep our graduates grounded in mission as they further their health care careers,” said Bursey.
Over the last 20 years, Bursey’s contributions have extended beyond AHU. He is a past president of the Adventist Society for Religious Studies; is founder and president of the Central Florida Chapter, Association of Adventist Forums; served for more than 15 years on AdventHealth Central Florida’s Bioethics Committee; and currently serves on AdventHealth’s Professional Advisory Board for Clinical Pastoral Education and Mission Governance for the Central Florida Division. He is an accomplished speaker and author, including writer of the commentary on the Book of Romans for Andrews Bible Commentary.
“The AHU leadership and Board of Trustees recognize that Ernie’s contributions to Adventist higher education are deep and impactful. His distinguished service, scholarship, and contributions to the teaching profession have earned him the title of professor emeritus, but his dedication to mission and commitment to provide students a transformational experience is what sets him apart. We have truly been blessed by having him shape so many lives in a positive way,” stated Edwin I. Hernández, Ph.D., AHU president.
Whether you’re a student or a colleague, Bursey is much beloved because of his supportive and nurturing nature. His way of being and his spirit is characterized by the simple tagline in his emails, “Cheering you on.”
AdventHealth University | May 2021