The Burke Rehabilitation Centennial: 100 Years of Rehabilitation Leadership and a Legacy of Caring

Published January 7, 2015

Burke Rehabilitation Center: It all began with a generous gift, 61 bucolic acres, splendid neoclassical buildings and an innovative vision for rehabilitative care. It became a home for world-class physicians and an award-winning research institute. A recognized leader in the fields of medical rehabilitation and pioneering research, Burke continues its tradition of excellence today.


Welcome to 2015! This New Year is an exciting one for Burke Rehabilitation Hospital as we celebrate 100 years of rehabilitative care and service to the community. Over the course of its history, Burke has grown from a convalescent facility to a full-service, award-winning rehabilitation hospital with associated research institute. It’s been a remarkable journey and one that would not have been possible without the dedication and compassion of every physician, nurse, therapist, staff member, researcher and volunteer who has made Burke such a special place since its founding a century ago.

In honor of our centennial, we pay special tribute to our wonderful patients and their families. We invite you and members of the community to celebrate with us throughout the year as we commemorate our unique past and recommit ourselves to the next century of exceptional rehabilitation care.

A 100th birthday is a special occasion and it’s important to reflect back because our history is so much a part of who we are today.

It was a little over a century ago that New York philanthropist John Masterson Burke saw that the medical community was missing a much needed interim place where patients could go and convalesce after being discharged from the hospital. With this in mind he left a generous initial endowment and the Burke Foundation was born. In 1912, the late Mr. Burke’s money was used to purchase 61 acres of land in White Plains. The philanthropist’s vision of rehabilitative care became a reality on April 7, 1915 when the Winifred Masterson Burke Relief Foundation, named in honor of his mother, opened its doors.

In 1918, the Burke Foundation transformed into a Naval Hospital for injured WWI veterans and in 1941 it treated wounded soldiers from WWII. The vast numbers of seriously injured veterans led to a re-emphasis on physical and occupational therapy. By 1950, Burke’s focus had shifted from being a convalescent facility to a rehabilitation hospital and the Relief Foundation became known as Burke Rehabilitation Hospital.

The Burke Research Institute was created in 1978 to foster the development of new approaches to cognitive and motor rehabilitation and has enjoyed a long standing collaboration with Burke Rehabilitation Hospital and the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

What began 100 years ago with John Masterson Burke’s foresight and generosity, has become a lasting legacy ensuring that all patients who come through Burke’s doors make the fullest possible recovery from illness, injury or surgery.

Throughout the year, we’ve planned a number of exciting events in honor of our anniversary. Our new micro site--—has all the details and will include:

  • Extensive Burke Timeline 1915-2015
  • Archive photos section (historic photos)
  • List of Centennial Events
  • Peek at the Burke Lobby Centennial Display
  • Patient testimonials (share your success story)

Here is a preview of some of our 2015 centennial events:

In January, we kick off our celebration with a fascinating collection of retrospective and prospective artifacts chronicling Burke’s first 100 years. From personal items of our benefactor, John Masterson Burke, to the latest technology being utilized in rehabilitation medicine, this not-to-be-missed exhibition can be viewed in the lobby of the Wood Pavilion from mid-January through December 2015.

February will mark the beginning of our Legacy Lobby LecturesFrom pioneering the use of prosthetics to the latest in rehabilitation technology, these monthly Burke lectures will feature lively discussions from key Burke staff and visiting lecturers on topics such as science, innovation and the history of Burke. The lecture series will take place the first Monday of each month at 4 p.m. in the Wood Pavilion.

Also in February, Burke hosts the 4th annual local championship for the International Brain Bee competition. This not-for-profit neuroscience competition for high school students is designed to inspire them to learn about the brain and pursue careers in biomedical brain research. The winners compete in the national Brain Bee and may be eligible for the international championships held in Washington, D.C.

Our Heels & Wheels 5k will take place in May on and around the Burke campus. It allows wheelchair athletes and able bodied runners to utilize the same course together and is a terrific event. In June, we will host the annual Burke Award fund raising dinner and gala. This is Burke’s premier fundraising event and a showcase to honor those who have made a significant contribution to the field of rehabilitation.

The Wheelchair Games will return to campus in September. This popular competition always a draws a crowd of enthusiastic participants and spectators and gives those with physical impairments the opportunity to stay fit, enjoy sports and compete.

We will also be bringing together thought leaders in science and rehabilitation medicine for a symposium in October. The event will showcase what is currently being done synergistically between the hospital and research institute. The goal is to continue to share thoughts to help create new technologies and treatments that going forward will give hope to the acutely and chronically disabled.

These are just a few of the events Burke has planned for the coming year. Stay tuned as we add more. You’ll find a full listing of our centennial events at Please join us at Burke Rehabilitation Center as we celebrate a century of innovative rehabilitative care!

—Mary Beth Walsh, M.D.
Executive Medical Director and CEO

For additional blog posts by Dr. Walsh, visit

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