And the Band Played On

Photo: Harry Fisher/The Morning Call, Inc.
Copyright 2005; Used by permission

Liberty High School principal Bill Burkhardt '69 didn't expect much fanfare when the end of the school year rolled around.

His students and colleagues thought differently.

Burkhardt was treated to a parade from his home to the school, complete with a 250-member marching band salute and cheers from students and teachers alike.

"It's really been a wonderful time and a wonderful experience," said Burkhardt, who retired after 35 years with the Bethlehem Area School District. "I've met, worked with, and taught some very fine people in my time here. It's sad to have to leave, but at the same time it's the beginning of something new."

Burkhardt graduated from Liberty in 1965. He then attended Moravian and landed a job as a teacher in the school district.

After working at several of the district's schools for 20 years, he was named principal at Liberty.

"When I was a young teacher I always had an admiration for those who were above me," he said. "I think that's what motivated me to want to pursue an administrative position."

Burkhardt, 56, said the decision to retire was a tough one but that it needed to be made.

"It's going to be easier to have one job instead of two," he said, referring to the ice cream shops he owns in Bethlehem (including The Cup, near the high school). "I'll be able to focus on that and also spend more time with my family and be able to relax a bit."

He said the extra time will allow him to help out his four children, who are beginning their own adult lives.

"I had my time, and they are coming into theirs," he said. "It's nice to be able to help them out as well."

Burkhardt will be relaxing in a town he loves deeply.

"I don't know if I ever really thought about leaving," he said. "I've just really been blessed to have had so many wonderful experiences."

Burkhardt attributes much of Bethlehem's appeal to the two schools he graduated from. His daughter Amanda '01 attended Moravian as well.

"I think Moravian serves a much-needed purpose in this community, just like Liberty does," he said. "Both schools have fine reputations and serve centralized places in the community. I have nothing but great things to say about both schools."

Liberty is a very important institution to the community, he said.

"Sometimes the decisions we make have an effect across the board," he said. "We take that responsibility very seriously, for the students and for the residents as well."

" The community he cares so much about didn't treat the principal's departure lightly.

Sen. Arlen Specter, President George W. Bush, Bethlehem City Council, and even Martha Stewart sent commendations to Burkhardt.

"It was really, really flattering," he said. "It means a lot to me that people care enough to do something like that for you."