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Published on October 11, 2018

Gretchen and Bob Burns honored with Lay Leadership award

Gretchen and Bob Burns

Gretchen and Bob Burns are being honored by Gundersen Medical Foundation with the 2018 Founders Award for Lay Leadership. The award recognizes those who distinguish themselves through their volunteer leadership and philanthropy in advancing the Foundation's mission.

Gretchen's father, a doctor, philosophized, "To those whom much is given, much is expected." This has been a guiding belief that has led Gretchen to give nearly 50 years and countless hours to Gundersen Health System in various volunteer roles.

By Gretchen's side is her biggest supporter, her husband Bob. He also has given much to Gundersen…in a more roundabout way. Bob is a retired professor of Microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. In fact, he started and nurtured the Microbiology program into a Wisconsin Center of Excellence. Bob taught, and was advisor to, several students who are now doctors at Gundersen.

The Burns are also committed donors to the Foundation. "Every year for nearly 40 years, they have donated to the Foundation," remarks Robyn Tanke, Foundation chief development officer. "This year they made a considerable donation to help launch the new Employees Helping Employees Fund."

Gretchen started volunteering in the 1960s with what is today Gundersen Partners, the Health System Auxiliary. She started in the gift shop, ran the candy stripers program in the 1970s, served on the Auxiliary board and as president, served on the Foundation board for the hospital and volunteered in the Intensive Care Unit waiting room.

But her real passion has been caring for patients at Gundersen's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders since 1992. Gretchen declares, "I feel it's a calling. It is necessary for me to be here and continue the compassionate care my father gave to his patients."

Gretchen and Bob's connection to the Cancer Center runs so deep that they made a significant gift for the new hematology/oncology lab. "Working at the Cancer Center, I can keep an eye on 'our lab,'" Gretchen jokes.

"We've been patients at Gundersen for 50 years. We enjoy very good health thanks, in part, to the excellent care we received here," Bob adds. "Our donations are an opportunity to give back and honor important people in our lives."

For all Gretchen does, for all the Burns have given, Gretchen's father would be proud. We are proud, too, to be recognizing Gretchen and Bob with this much deserved award.

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