By Doris Yu
January 29, 2015 — Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia recently honored Jesuit Father George Bur and his sibling, Sister Mary Elizabeth Bur, I.H.M., with the Ratio Studiorum Award as part of Catholic Schools Week.
According to the university, recipients are “educators who have made exceptional leadership and collaboration efforts to improve the future of high-quality, competitive Catholic education.” The award is named after the Ratio atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Iesu, the Jesuit plan created in 1542 to establish a global educational system.
Fr. Bur is the retiring president of Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia and a member of the Saint Joseph’s University Board of Trustees. In addition, Fr. Bur spent most of the past three decades in North Philadelphia advocating for educational access for underrepresented students.
Prior to serving as president of Saint Joseph’s Prep, Fr. Bur served at the Gesu School, an elementary school in North Philadelphia, for nearly 20 years. In 1993, he oversaw its transition from an archdiocesan school to an independent Jesuit institution, where he then served as president for another decade.
After stepping down from his position at the Gesu School in 2003, Fr. Bur began the Ignatian College Connection (ICC), a program at Saint Joseph’s University dedicated to making the university more affordable as a college choice for urban students.
Sr. Bur is the retiring principal of West Catholic Preparatory School in Philadelphia. After completing a master’s degree in English at Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pennsylvania, Sr. Bur began a career in secondary education teaching at Allentown Central Catholic High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
Sr. Bur then became an assistant principal at Archbishop Ryan High School and at West Catholic Girls High School, both in Philadelphia. She helped create the newly co-educational West Philadelphia Catholic High School in 1989, serving there as assistant principal and principal for the past 21 years. The rebirth of the school as the West Catholic Preparatory School in 2013 was largely due to her academic leadership.
"Brother and sister, George and Mary Bur, have given much of their lives and careers to students in the City of Philadelphia,” said Jesuit Father Daniel R. J. Joyce, executive director of the Alliance for Catholic Education at Saint Joseph's University. “The impact that they have had by creating educational opportunity for families with few options has been transformative for the community.”