Ryan Chartrand

One of the most prominent women faculty members Cal Poly has ever had passed away May 14 after a year-long battle with cancer.

“She fought a good fight,” friend and retired professor Don Morris said.

Sarah Burroughs joined the Cal Poly staff in 1967 as one of the university’s first woman science professors. She taught courses on nutrition, and became the first woman ever elected to the Academic Senate. She was also the first woman to ever serve on the Senate Executive Committee.

“She contributed significantly to building a very strong and nationally recognized food science and nutrition department at Cal Poly,” said Lark Carter, president of the Retired Faculty and Staff Club, of which Burroughs was a member.

In 1981, Burroughs received Cal Poly’s Distinguished Teacher Award, a title Morris said was “well-deserved.” Burroughs also received a Meritorious Performance Award in 1988.

“She was a very personal teacher,” Morris said. “She really loved her students.”

He described evenings when Burroughs would invite her students to late dinners in the clubhouse of the complex she and Morris both lived in.

Burroughs made herself available to students and always expressed interest in what they were doing, Morris said.

“She was the kind of person that any Cal Poly faculty member would like to emulate,” he said.

“Sarah Burroughs was a competent and highly respected professor at Cal Poly,” Carter said. “Many of her students looked to her as a role model and mentor.”

Although Burroughs retired from teaching in 1997, she remained active in the Cal Poly community. She regularly attended Cal Poly’s Open House, was a member of the Cal Poly Women’s Club, and never missed a meeting for the Cal Poly Retired Faculty and Staff Club.

Burroughs also served as the first adviser for the Chi Psi chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi in San Luis Obispo. She had just earned her 50-year pin, said Amy Marsland, Alpha Omicron Pi chapter president and business administration senior, in an e-mail.

Burroughs enjoyed Cal Poly and frequently shared her experiences at the university with others, Morris said.

He remembered one story in particular.

It was 1967, and Burroughs was driving through the Cal Poly campus with someone from the nutrition department. She had just interviewed for a teaching position after earning a doctorate in nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley, during the same year.

As soon as the words, “you’re hired” escaped her companion’s lips, their car was cut off by a cow crossing a main-campus road.

Burroughs was shocked. She realized the extent of Cal Poly’s orientation toward agriculture, and how different the university was from others.

She chose to make her home in the San Luis Obispo area, and taught at Cal Poly for 30 years before retiring to live in Pismo Beach.

A memorial will be held in Burroughs’ honor at the Shore Cliff Lodge in Pismo Beach on Thursday, June 14 at 3 p.m.

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