Community Leader, Talented Artist,
and Proud Keystonian
Since the day he stepped on campus, Keystone College has been an integral part of Austin Burke’s life.
Austin, who retired in 2013 after a distinguished 40-year career as president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, has been involved with Keystone as a student, a proud alumnus, and, today, as an accomplished artist and art student.
“I have learned so much at Keystone that has helped me in all aspects of my life,” Austin said. “Most of all, I have met so many kind and talented people. It has been, and continues to be, a wonderful association.”
A native of nearby Archbald, Pa., Austin arrived at what was then Keystone Junior College in 1969, eager to continue his education after his service as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. After taking summer art classes from Keystone’s renowned professor Karl Neuroth, Austin enrolled as a full-time student. In 1970, he received his associate degree in general studies from Keystone and continued his education at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., obtaining a bachelor’s degree in economics and a Phi Beta Kappa key. Upon graduating from Dickinson, he began his career in economic development.
“Keystone is really a special place. It’s a great school with a proud tradition that has produced so many graduates who have gone on to be leaders in our area and in the nation. Most of all, it’s a college where people are valued as individuals and care about each other. That’s really what makes Keystone special to me.”
Austin Burke, ’70
After working for the Economic Development Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Austin, at the age of the age of 29, joined the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and began a 40-year career as a key leader in the Scranton area’s economic renaissance from an older, industrial region into a metropolitan area respected for its progress and workforce excellence. For example, Austin played a major role in the development of the Montage Mountain area in Moosic, Lackawanna County, as an important employment, recreation, and residential center which is still one of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s major assets.
“We believed in our city and we believed in our region as we still do today,” Austin said. “We knew that working together, we could grow our local companies and bring national companies with well-paying, family sustaining jobs to the Scranton area and that’s exactly what we were able to accomplish.”
Austin’s professional accomplishments were recognized not only regionally but across the state as he served from 2010-2011 as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Community and Economic Development for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
While business and economic development may have been his professional calling, Austin’s longtime love for art and creativity has come to the forefront in recent years. His oil and water-color paintings highlighting numerous scenes and landscapes throughout the Scranton and Harrisburg areas have gained widespread acclaim from artists and art-lovers alike. In fact, Austin’s works include several paintings of Keystone’s scenic campus which are featured in Keystone’s 150-year anniversary publication. A complete selection of Austin’s work is available at www.austinburkeart.com.
“Over the years, I’ve really come to enjoy painting a great deal. I especially find it gratifying to paint those local scenes and landmarks which make our area so beautiful and so unique,” Austin said.
He also credits his classes at Keystone with helping him improve.
“In addition to being really interesting and enjoyable, my art classes at Keystone have really helped me enhance and refine my work. I really look forward to coming to campus and being a part of the Keystone community,” he said.
Austin credits art professors such as Ward Roe, and retired professor Cliff Prokop, among others, for helping him refine his talents
“Austin is a really dedicated and talented artist,” Ward said. “It’s a pleasure to have him in my classes. The other students really gain something from his presence. It makes for a wonderful mix to have younger students and returning alumni learn from each other.”
Whether he’s in class or visiting with Keystone students, faculty, and staff members in the student restaurant, Austin is a proud Keystonian. In fact, Keystone honored Austin in 2013 by presenting him with a Doctorate of Humane Letters during commencement exercises.
“Keystone is really a special place,” he said. “It’s a great school with a proud tradition that has produced so many graduates who have gone on to be leaders in our area and in the nation. Most of all, it’s a college where people are valued as individuals and care about each other. That’s really what makes Keystone special to me.”
Austin still resides in his native Archbald with his wife, Marianne. They are parents of three adult children: Austin, III and wife, Christine (their children are Ella, Austin IV, and PJ); son, Tim and wife, Krista; and daughter, Judy.