New Book By Local Authors Published About Arthur Lee Burns, Longtime Teacher At McCallie

Monday, July 14, 2014

Please See Me. A.L.B. is the title for a new book about Major A. L. Burns, longtime teacher at The McCallie School. The hardcover edition is available from McCallie. Authors Henry Henegar, Jane Henegar, and Helen Burns Sharp have collected family and school stories and subtitled the book, “The Influence of Arthur Lee Burns.” One former student describes the life of Mr. Burns as “indelible influence indeed.”

Stories told by his students comprise most of the book, confirming that recognition of this fabled schoolman is overdue…and timely. Telling Treasures, which promotes recorded family legacies and memories, recognized the ongoing legacy of ALB in his grandson and namesake’s selection as McCallie’s eighth headmaster. Arthur Lee Burns III became headmaster at McCallie July 1. In the final chapter Lee Burns wrote, “I am certain that my life’s path and purpose have been largely shaped by him.”

The late Senator Howard Baker, McCallie Class of 1943, said, “In all my travels, many people have made a lasting impression on me. However, in my youth…none have compared with [Maj. Burns].” Ms. Sharp remembers her father passing by as she puzzled over her math homework. “Once, I almost understood logarithms,” was all he could offer. “There were a lot of things that Maj. almost understood,” his daughter remembers. “But he well understood everything that matters.”

Mr. Burns’ involvement with McCallie spanned more than 60 years. He was a student there from 1916 to 1920; a teacher of French and progressively master of dormitories, dean of students, and associate headmaster from 1925 to 1972. He remained active on campus in retirement until his death in 1977. The title of the book comes from the thousands of handwritten notes from ALB to a student. “This terse summons…could fill a boy with terror and cause him to rummage through his conscience for all recent sins and infractions….It could also fill him with hope, because up until the delivery of that note, he might not have mattered to much of anybody.”

Ms. Sharp supplied family stories and photographs. Numerous alumni supplied anecdotes. Ron Harr supplied the cover photograph and others. The Henegars edited and designed the book.

One alumnus asked why a man held in such high esteem would not have already been honored in book form in the 35 years since he died. “Reverence, maybe,” one former pupil suggested. The book was conceived in a grocery store in October 2013. Ms. Sharp, Mr. Burns’ daughter, and Ms. Henegar, a writer, ran into each other in the produce section and decided the time was ripe. They recruited Ms. Henegar’s husband, a former pupil and colleague of Mr. Burns. 

Hardcover books are available from the McCallie bookstore for $30. Softcover editions are available from Amazon. An eBook will be available soon.


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