As a tribute to a young man whose heart was full of music and beloved by all who met him, Wayne and Jasmine Burton have established a scholarship in honour of their nephew, Josh Burton.
Wayne, a physician and an accomplished inspirational musician, obtained a Bachelor of Science at the University of Lethbridge before he completed medical school at the University of Utah. Both raised in southern Alberta, Wayne and his wife, Jasmine, decided to return and make Lethbridge their home. When they considered supporting a U of L scholarship program, they immediately recalled Josh’s love of music.
“We thought it was really fitting to have Josh be recognized in the process because he certainly was a learner,” says Wayne. “He didn’t do a formal university music program but he was always just soaking it up whenever he could, so he fit the role of a lifelong learner for sure.”
Josh was 23 years old when he passed away in Guatemala after a vehicle accident, just a few months away from the end of his two-year mission through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was among a group of missionaries who were on their way to a little Mayan village to help move a house. The vehicle he was riding in went off the road and crashed down a mountain. Following surgery and other complications, he passed away on July 22, 2013.
“Josh was always a very energetic and driven young man, a great person to be around. He had a lot of friends wherever he lived,” says Wayne. “He was, among other things, a great musician. He played piano; he studied the different classical composers but very much wanted to take it and run with it himself. He composed a lot of music himself and eventually recorded an album that I helped him with.”
Music and education are two strong themes in the Burton family. Josh shared a love of music with Wayne and with his father, Allan, and Josh’s mother Heather (BEd ’89) is a strong supporter of learning in all its forms.
“With the Josh Burton Memorial Award, we want to emphasize students who want to embark on their own musical ambitions as an artist or get out there and record a CD, because that’s a whole different endeavour than taking classes. Josh was that way and I’m that way,” says Wayne. “It’s maybe an area that doesn’t get as much recognition formally in universities. We also have a component where they would need to be involved in some kind of community service or humanitarian cause.”
Josh showed passion in both those areas. In addition to his missionary work in South America, his letters showed he had compassion for the people he met in Guatemala, says Wayne. And Josh’s enthusiasm for music is evident on his YouTube channel where he explains what lit the fire for music in his heart.
“We are very grateful to Wayne and Jasmine for establishing this legacy in honour of their nephew Josh,” says Edward Jurkowski, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “As they create a loving memory of Josh, I want to thank them for helping our students achieve their musical dreams while nurturing their volunteer spirits.”
“If Josh had a message for the recipients of this scholarship, he’d probably say ‘Just focus on excellence and really finding where your heart leads you.’ He would say ‘Follow your passion,’” says Wayne.