Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 1, Page 19
Fall 1992
Lillian Burris: Delaware's Mother of the Year

      Children are God's most precious gift. Being at home with my children
when they were young was a great privilege and challenge," says Lillian
Marshall Burris, Delaware '41, the First State's 1992 Mother of the Year.
      The family values Burris and her husband, John E. (Jack), chairman of
the board of Burris Foods Inc., established 50 years ago this past June
have served them well and have been passed down to their four children and
12 grandchildren.
      There are three criteria for being elected Delaware Mother of the
Year by American Mothers Inc., and Burris' life exemplifies them all. They
are community involvement, contributions to education and the success of
one's husband and children.
      It takes three typewritten pages to list Lillian Burris' community
activities. She has belonged to and been active in numerous organizations
from the late 1950s and early '60s right through into the '90s. They
include the Milford New Century Club, the Milford Memorial Hospital
Auxiliary, the Avenue United Methodist Church, Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub
Scouts, the PTA, the Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, the Heart
Fund, the American Field Service and more.
      Highlights of her volunteer career include work with the Children's
Beach House in Lewes and nine years as a trustee of Wesley College in
Dover. Additionally, she is proud of the job she, her family and employees
of Burris Foods do each year cooking the chicken barbecue (1,200 chickens)
at the Milford Memorial Hospital's annual fair.
      Her husband's list of volunteer activities is almost as long as his
wife's. Jack Burris also serves as secretary/treasurer of the University's
Board of Trustees. In recognition of their service, they were elected
Outstanding Citizens of the Year by the Milford Chamber of Commerce in
      The Burris' three sons are presidents of companies and their daughter
is a volunteer fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society. Three of them
also are Delaware alumni.
      Robert Donnan Burris, Delaware '66, was vice president of Kappa Alpha
fraternity and a member of the Inter-Fraternity Council while on campus. He
is currently the president of Burris Foods, president of Christian radio
station WXPZ and chairperson of the board at Christian Tabernacle. He and
his wife, Susan, have three children.
      John Marshall Burris is the president of the Delaware State Chamber
of Commerce. He was a member of the Delaware House of Representatives from
l976-82 and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1984. He and his
wife, Linda, have three sons.
      Howard Wilkins Burris, Delaware, '70, is president of Burris Express
Co., in charge of delivery operations for frozen food to states east of the
Mississippi. Past vice president of Milford Little League, he and his wife,
Janice, have four children.
      Lillian Elizabeth Burris Hoopman, Delaware, '65, and her husband,
Robert, Delaware '63, have two sons. Like her mother, Hoopman was a campus
beauty queen. A former school teacher, she now is a homemaker in Harford
County, Md.
      "My greatest joy is knowing that my four children are devoted
parents," Burris says. Early in their marriage,the Burrises made a
decision. "You have your children for such a short time," she says. "My
loving husband and I agreed from the start that the children would always
come first."
      The children were raised to "respect those in authority at school and
in the community, to care for those less fortunate and not to be
prejudiced," she says.
      Of their parenting style: "We weren't too strict. We gave them lots
of love. We were more strict when they were teenagers. They didn't have
full rein. They had to make the honor roll if they wanted to watch
television. They couldn't go out on school nights.
      "They knew that our home was always open to their friends. That way
we always knew where they were. They were all expected to go to college,
and we made them go to church."
      Burris had been asked twice before to run for Mother of the Year but
had declined. This year, the time seemed right, and she was pleased to
receive what she calls "a very lovely honor."
      A bulging album holds photos of the reception in her honor, including
a shot of Delaware Gov. Michael N. Castle planting a kiss on her cheek. At
the national competition in the Reagan Library in California, she met many
new friends.
      Lillian Burris was born in Lewes, and she and her husband met on the
beach. She taught for one year at Caesar Rodney while he finished his
degree at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
After four and a half years in the service, the couple settled in
Milford-his hometown.
      Burris' father, the late Joseph L. Marshall, graduated from the
University in l911 and was the first commander of Sigma Nu fraternity. He
also was a trustee of the University. Her mother died when Burris was 16.
      The hardest part of parenting for the Mother of the Year was when her
four children all left home. "I lost them all in five years and it was
hard, but I didn't sit around and mope. I kept up with my activities."
      And soon, there were grandchildren, seven boys and five girls, who
now range in age from 7 to 24. It wasn't long before Burris and her husband
were back where they had started: caring for babies, encouraging toddlers,
going to Little League games, hearing about the prom and attending high
school and college graduations.
                                   -Beth Thomas