In high school, he tutored peers every lunch hour. “I’d tutor any course, even if I hadn’t taken it,” he says. He helped a student go from a D- to a B in photography by showing him how to study. Drawing on what he learned in school and in the Boy Scouts, Burger later became captain in charge of training in his ROTC battalion.
Eventually, the knowledge he amassed over his years of tutoring and training helped him win admission to Caltech.
“I was really primed,” he says. “What they don’t tell you when you tutor is that you learn more than the students do. People forget that it’s cumulative.”
As a Caltech alumnus working at JPL, Burger mentored Caltech students in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. And he continues to help SURF students hone their presentation skills.
But after he retired, he began to feel unsettled. “About 14 months ago, I just wasn’t feeling good,” he says. “All of a sudden, I realized I was bored.”
He started tutoring again—joining a vibrant program at the La Pintoresca branch of the Pasadena Public Library. The malaise disappeared. He’s excited to help the children he tutors build knowledge that will give them access to better opportunities, just as his knowledge did.
Now, Burger’s love of learning will extend even further into the future. He has created a Break Through campaign gift through his revocable trust to endow a SURF at Caltech. Over the decades to come, Dale Burger will still be helping others learn to learn.
Read the related story in Caltech’s gift planning newsletter, Techniques