Lisa Burger was the kind of person who lit up a room when she walked through the door, the kind of person who’d drop everything to ask someone how they were doing and the kind of person who’d do everything she could to support students at UND.
Burger, who was assistant vice president of student academic services at UND, died Wednesday, July 17, at the age of 50 after a battle with liver cancer, her second cancer battle in less than 10 years.
Cassie Gerhardt, associate dean of students and director of student involvement and parent programs, said Burger was a dedicated servant to UND students and an incredible friend.
“She was my best friend, and she made UND a better place for students,” Gerhardt said. “I think that’s what we all hope to do, and Lisa did that every day.”
Gerhardt met Burger when she was a student at UND. Burger worked in enrollment services while Gerhardt was a student tour guide on campus.
When Gerhardt returned to UND in 2002, the two started as colleagues but an occasional lunch date quickly became a close friendship.
“Lisa was my person,” Gerhardt said, likening their relationship to that of Meredith and Cristina on "Grey's Anatomy."
Burger, a Hillsboro native who graduated from UND in 1991, fell in love with the university as a student, according to Gerhardt.
While she spent some time working in Crookston, Burger returned to UND to be a recruiter after graduation. She spent some more time working in Minot, but returned to UND again in 1998.
Burger was director of student academic services at UND from 2000 to 2007 and then filled the position of director of the UND Student Success Center from 2007 to 2010. The office was created under Burger’s guidance and leadership, merging Student Academic Services, the University Learning Center and the Adult Re-entry Center, according to Burger’s UND biography. The combining of these three offices into one unit has proven to be positive for students, faculty and staff – and continues to be a resource for providing academic and student support, the biography said.
Prior to her appointment as assistant vice president for student academic services in 2013, she served in an interim capacity as executive director of enrollment services at UND from May 2011 to June 2012.
Burger worked with everyone, from faculty and staff to administrators and students, during her time at UND. Gerhardt said she always was positive and able to shine a light to every situation even as she battled cancer.
“I think the first thing (people would say) is they can still see her smile when she walked into a room,” Gerhardt said. “She was an air of positivity even while she battled cancer twice in her life.”
Derek Sporbert, TRIO project director, worked with Burger when he started at TRIO. Sporbert said Burger was “the nicest and kindest person” he’s ever met, who touched everyone she met at UND. Burger’s care for students and everyone around her will be her legacy on campus.
“Lisa might be the most caring person I’ve ever met in my life,” Sporbert said. “She was dedicated to making sure what happened at the university was good for students and, if it wasn’t good for students, then she wasn’t going to support it.”
But while Burger loved UND and was passionate about the university, Gerhardt said Burger’s top priority was her family, including her husband, Gerrad, and her sons, Isaac and Noah.
“While her UND family will miss her dearly, it is her husband and sons who most feel the loss with Lisa’s passing,” Gerhardt said.
Sporbert said Burger was a very dear friend to him. She was the kind of person who would run into someone at the grocery store and proceed to drop everything to ask about their day and how they were doing, according to Sporbert, adding that she was also an incredible mother.
“She supported her sons whether it was baseball games or hockey games; she was there cheering her boys on and just one of the proudest mothers you’ve ever met,” he said. “Her boys meant the world to her.”