Spotlight on Service: Behind the Burnes Innovation in Service Fund

At the end of January, we were very excited to announce the launch of the Boston Bar Service Innovation Project, which represents a new approach to public service for the Boston Bar. The pilot will focus on addressing issues around the school-prison-pipeline, and while the project is in its early stages, we have already begun initial outreach efforts to our partners and other community organizations who are currently working on this problem.

The Service Innovation Project was made possible by the Burnes Service in Innovation Fund, established earlier this year by former Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Nonnie Burnes and her husband, Charles River Ventures founder Richard Burnes.

Nonnie is a former secretary of the Boston Bar Foundation and former member of the Board of Trustees. She is also an Executive Fellow of the BBF, and has been consistently dedicated to the organization’s mission to increase access to justice. From her time on the bench, she has been a staunch promoter of excellence in the legal profession, chairing the working group whose 2011 recommendations led to the creation and implementation of the Practicing with Professionalism Course for newly admitted attorneys.

From 2009 to 2012, Nonnie served as a Senior University Fellow at Northeastern University, where she currently sits on the Board of Trustees and chairs the Audit Committee. She also chaired the Board of Directors of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and served as the interim President and CEO in 2014 and 2015. She sits on the board of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, an international legal advocacy group for women’s health and reproductive rights.

Rick currently chairs the Board of Trustees of WGBH, which is responsible for governing both the radio and television stations and the WGBH Educational Foundation. He also sits on the Board of Trustees for Boston Plan for Excellence, which operates two Boston District Schools and trains teachers to drive exceptional student outcomes. He was one of the founders of Boston Business Leaders for Education, which works with individual Boston public schools and urges the legislature to support education reform in the Boston public schools. He was chair of the board of the Museum of Science and continues on the board. He is also Vice Chair of the Sea Education Association training oceanographers.

Nonnie and Rick have worked to create opportunities for young people in Boston, in particular in the areas of public interest and civic engagement. They are longtime supporters of Discovering Justice, an education nonprofit that teaches elementary and middle school students about the importance of civic responsibility, the justice system and the law’s role in a democratic society. In 1999, they played a major role in launching the Public Interest Law Scholars program at Northeastern University School of Law, creating a new resource for exceptional students pursuing social justice and public service.

In recognition of all their work for the public good, the Boston Bar Foundation presented Nonnie and Rick with the 2018 Public Service Award at its annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit. In his acceptance speech, Rick vocalized his intent to continue to work toward a public school system that enables all students to access the same opportunities.

We are grateful to Rick and Nonnie for their generosity and commitment to Boston’s youth, and for enabling this exciting new initiative. If you are interested learning more about the pilot phase of the Service Innovation Project, please contact Heather Leary at [email protected].