The Bookman Cometh

When Beverly Bradley first approached Jack Burke ’56 about starting a branch of the Cops-n-Kids program in Bethlehem, he thought it would be a once and done deal. The two planned to collect 1,000 books for distribution to local children. With the program now entering its third year and passing 70,000 books, Burke says, “We’ve found a full-time job.”

Cops-n-Kids started in Racine, Wis., with the efforts of police officer Julia Burney. Responding to an incident at an abandoned warehouse, she found 10,000 children’s books. The owner let her take the books, which she sorted into bags to keep in the trunk of her patrol car. Burney began to distribute the books to children while on duty.

Oprah heard about the program, making it a part of Oprah’s Angels. As a result, the program was adopted by Quota International, which Bradley had joined upon her 2001 retirement from teaching at Southern Lehigh High School. Quota International opened the opportunity for local chapters to adopt the Cops-n- Kids program in summer 2003. Bradley immediately became involved and enlisted Burke’s help.

Burke has been an invaluable asset to the program. In addition to spending 37 years with Bethlehem Area School District as a teacher, principal, and director of personnel, he is chairman of the Democratic Party in Bethlehem. “I could open a lot of doors,” he says, “All you have to do is get Beverly in the door, and she’ll sell it.” Together, they have sold Cops-n-Kids not only to the Bethlehem Police Department, but to area schools, businesses, and non-profit organizations—including Moravian College.

“They have adopted us, and we’ve adopted them,” says Bradley of the Moravian men’s basketball team. Burke echoes those sentiments saying, “I’ve really gotten to respect all those kids a lot.” Under coach Jim Walker, the team has been involved with Cops-n-Kids from the beginning, reading to children at area schools and sorting books by age level. This year the women’s team also got in the act, most notably in February when both teams visited Spring Garden Elementary School. They promoted the importance of reading during a school-wide assembly before going to individual classrooms in order to read each child his or her new book and sign it. “By personalizing it for [the children], it makes it even better,” Burke explains, “It’s one thing to give them a book, and another thing to take it, read it, and sign it—put a personal stamp on it.”

Burke came to Moravian as a 23-year-old after serving for four years with U. S. Air Force Special Intelligence. He graduated with a secondary education certification with an emphasis in history and an elementary education minor. Burke, who went on to earn a master’s degree from Lehigh University, was active in various educational organizations. For his dedication to helping children, he has received many awards, most notably Moravian College’s first Benigna Education Award for outstanding contributions in education in 2001.

He continues to be actively involved with the College, chairing a committee of alumni veterans who will recognize President Rokke during Alumni Weekend. Burke lives in Bethlehem with his wife, Pat Rogan Burke ’71. The couple has three sons (all Moravian graduates), seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. “I always thank Moravian because they gave me an opportunity,” says Burke, “When I came out of the service and needed help, they were there. I have never hesitated to be close.”

- Samantha Madison '07

Caption: Jack Burke '56 reads to students at William Penn Elementary School, where he was formerly principle.

Photo: John Kish IV