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Pushing forward

Business graduate overcomes multiple concussions to finish degree

special feature: Class of 2023

The Gazette’s latest special feature celebrates Memorial’s newest alumni.

By Susan White

Pearce Burton will collect his bachelor’s degree in business administration on May 31.

But whether the spring graduate would earn that parchment wasn’t always certain.

Pearce Burton rests his hand on a railing. The city of St. John's is in the background.
Pearce Burton receives his bachelor of business administration degree during spring convocation ceremonies on May 31.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The 26-year-old from Torbay, N.L., has switched programs, moved from full-time to part-time studies and back again before turning his determination towards finishing his degree.

The ‘final straw’

Some of that journey may be attributed to simply not being ready for university, he says.

“I wasn’t necessarily mature enough to really understand the importance of post-secondary education at first.”

But Mr. Burton, who will walk across the Arts and Culture Stage during spring convocation ceremonies this week, has also sustained multiple concussions since his adolescent years.

By the time he was diagnosed with his ninth concussion in the summer of 2021, shortly after he had returned to full-time studies, it was the “final straw.”

“It was completely night and day,” he says. “It was very difficult for me. I didn’t have the same capacity to process all that [academic and social] information as I had before my injury. It was very overwhelming.”

A lifelong soccer player — Mr. Burton played competitively with several club teams — the sport was also the source of many of his injuries.

“One of the things that I’m most looking forward to is being able to hang my degree next to my father’s.” — Pearce Burton

No longer being able to participate in physical activities took its toll and shook his confidence.

His symptoms ranged from short-term memory loss and difficulty focusing to impaired fine motor skills and an inability to be in crowds of people for significant amounts of time.

Mr. Burton sought help from the Blundon Centre at Student Life, which he credits with helping him adjust to his new realities and finish all of his courses.

“I genuinely never thought I would be graduating from university, and one of the things that I’m most looking forward to is being able to hang my degree next to my father’s.”

Entrepreneurship exposure

Mr. Burton comes from a line of entrepreneurs.

His grandfather, father, aunt and uncles all run their own businesses.

That early exposure, along with some entrepreneurship courses in high school and winning the YMCA Enterprise Olympics at age 17, piqued his interest in studying business.

“. . . you have to be willing to push forward and take full advantage of the situations you find yourself in.” — Pearce Burton

He gained significant work experience in the private sector during his studies, including at Johnson Insurance.

He also completed two MUCEP placements at Gardiner Centre, the professional development arm of the Faculty of Business Administration.

The centre offers custom training solutions and a variety of practical certificate programs and courses to help individuals and organizations achieve professional and strategic goals.

Now that he’s recovered from his injuries, Mr. Burton is looking toward the future.

Shortly after completing his final course, he landed a full-time job at Gardiner Centre as its professional development advisor.

“The opportunities that are available, if you go looking for them, are endless, but you have to be willing to push forward and take full advantage of the situations you find yourself in,” he said. “Working at Memorial has also given me the opportunity to further explore pursuing my academic journey into graduate courses, and I never thought I’d be able to say that.”

The text "Spring convocation 2023" is over a claret background with a subtle damask pattern and a gold Memorial coat of arms in the lower right-hand corner.

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