Welcome to Ford N. Burkhart’s Web site, 2013-2014.

Welcome aboard. I can be reached at 520-591-7410. These days I am an independent writer based in Tucson, Arizona, working mainly for the University of Arizona; Arizona, the UA Alumnus magazine; AARP; SPIE; and the University of Hong Kong.

My resume can be briefly summarized: The Miami Herald, The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times (summers while teaching), The New York Times from 1996 to 2007.

I have taught in many places, notably at the University of Arizona and at University of Jos, in Nigeria, and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and I was head of the journalism program at the American University in Cairo. I have held workshops and lectured at Columbia University's Biosphere 2 campus and at Stanford, where I was part of William Woo’s one-year graduate program in journalism.


Here are links to some of my work:

Click here to see my 2009 science profiles for Research Corporation. Each one is readable little story leading the reader into the science.

Here's my profile of Robert Shelton, president of the UA, told through stories.

Here's my profile of Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona member of Congress, with historic photos and nifty stories from her days in Apache country.

This NY Times profile of a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, Senanu Agbley, mixes in some geoscience.


Here are links to 10 science profiles written for Research Corporation in Tucson.To make it easier, after you look at the first sketch, just click on the 10 names in the box at the left of your screen, and you can pull up each one. — Ford Burkhart, October 2008











Here are links to some of my New York Times Topics pages. In each case, I did the research to find content, organized the page, proposed links for the designers, found interesting blogs and sites, wrote the essay and added other Web material to make an interesting package:

Ford Burkhart’s Pakistan page, updated December 2007.

Kosovo page.

Fidel Castro page.

North Korea page.

Here is a more complete narrative resume:

Ford Burkhart is an independent writer and editor based in Tucson since August 2007 when he retired from the New York Times Foreign Desk where he worked for 11 years. He has worked in Tucson recently for the University of Arizona, the Research Corporation and several other organizations.

He has a Ph.D. in public administration, from ASU, and taught at several colleges overseas and in the U.S., including the University of Arizona, and has held workshops on the press for Stanford and Columbia University. He has worked for the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald and The Associated Press.

He won a share of a New York Times Pulitzer Prize as a writer of Portraits of Grief after 9/11.

He has won three Fulbright Fellowships to teach in Nigeria, Uganda and Malaysia, and has had two Asia Foundation Grants to teach political journalism in Mongolia and Singapore. He also has degrees from the University of Arizona and Stanford.

Here are a few additional New York Times items.

A profile of a victim of Hurricane Katrina.

A Science Watch item on bees’ genes.

“Silent Night Therapy,” from the Times Health Watch.

Another Health Watch report: “Weapon Against Strokes.”

Obit of the mathematician Andre Weil.

Obit of Victor Szebehely, pioneer in orbital mechanics.

This was the lead item in a “From the Notebook and the Heart” column after 9/11:

(As the terrible week unfolded, reporters recorded what they could and editors made sure that most of that voluminous report appeared in the paper. But often, powerful observations, bits of telling dialogue or deep personal experiences were, for one reason or another, not in the newspaper. They remained in notebooks or indelibly in the mind.

(Many photographs, too, unlike anything anybody had ever seen before, appeared in the paper day after day. But of course there were many more that didn't — and each photographer staring at the cataclysm through a viewfinder also had a story to tell in words. These pages present the opportunity for some of those observations to be brought to life, with contributions from reporters and photographers, but also from editors and others on the staff of The Times.)



Sitting, Waiting For a Job to End.

Published: September 16, 2001

This story is about a red Jeep. It has no ending, not yet.

The Jeep pulled up to Liberty Marina just after we had secured our 25-foot sailboat, after a perfect morning had turned perfectly horrendous.

"You have a boat," said the Jeep's driver, a young man in a black T-shirt.

"Why?" we asked.

"I'm a firefighter, Great Jones Street, and I need to join my company," he replied, out of breath. "I got caught in New Jersey on my day off."

The harbor was closed, we explained. But I offered to drive him along the river edge, through the police barricades with his badge flashing out the window, until we could find a boat bringing walking wounded from New York that would take him back.

We found one at the main square in Jersey City. He jumped out and went off, ran off, to the boat, to fight a fire in which we knew firefighters had already been killed. We just knew.

He didn't come back that night. One of us watched his car the next day. And the next. The story has no ending. But we will keep watching the red Jeep and trusting that he will return when his work is done.

Here a few of the profiles I wrote about 9/11 victims. The team members got a name and almost nothing else, and had a few hours to research and write. The Nation Challenged package won a Pulitzer.



Mentor to Many

In every firehouse in New York, somebody like Paul T. Mitchell takes the probies under his wing, nurturing them and giving them just enough grief to make sure they can endure. In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, at the Tillary Street firehouse, Big Daddy Mitchell taught everything: how to jump in when trouble calls, what to grab when you hear seven bells — the code sending Ladder 110 on a run.

Lieutenant Mitchell, 46, was someone the first-year probationers looked up to. Senior man on the truck, on the back step as a fireman, in the front seat after his promotion to lieutenant. He would go in with the inside team: the guys who cut through doors, looking for people needing help. That's the kind of guy they remember on Tillary Street: husband of Maureen; a sports fan if daughter Jennifer, 20, or Christine, 18, was competing; holder of three citations for valor.

But on Sept. 11, the truck rolled without him.

Off duty, he had stopped by for coffee around 8 a.m. When seven bells rang and the truck left, he soon realized it was trouble, the worst.

Without thinking, he grabbed somebody else's bunker pants, black coat with the yellow stripes, boots, helmet. And he was rolling, too.

— Dec. 30, 2001


Dispenser of Joy

With a shake of a shoulder and a laugh, Pops could lift just about any spirit, in the Edenwald section of the Bronx or back home in Kingston, Jamaica. He would share a reggae song with his 12 godchildren, or with friends at the D&B Auto Repair and Diagnostic Center over a beer and a fish. His laughter even warmed 2 World Trade Center, where on the 85th floor he last practiced the drywaller's art.

Many in his wide circle never knew his name was Derrick Arthur Green. It was just Pops, the 44-year-old man whose reply to anger was to smile and say, in properly clipped Jamaican English, "Just leave that out, mon. Come, let's go." The next minute everyone was smiling.

He laughed away the rough patches of 10 immigrant years courting his wife, Melrose, settling in enough to marry in 1995 and make a life for them on Amundson Avenue. Weekend evenings, on visits with the family of his "second mother" — Cynthia Edwards, an old friend from his Jamaica days — he was likely at some point to jump up from his chair and, along with a favorite Bob Marley tape, sing: "One love, one heart. Let's get together and feel all right." And they always did.

— April 7, 2002


Bible Stories and Dinner

Picture the children of Bushwick, Brooklyn, hundreds of them, speaking several languages, filling little chairs, singing of love and God's mercy. It's 10 a.m. at the Saturday children's ministry.

More songs, and prayers, and Bible stories. A woman moves among the young and restless, giving them treats to keep them quiet and attentive. She soldiers on, through all three preschool sessions, long past twilight.

By 6 p.m. a now weary Abigail Medina, 46, would make the eight-block journey from Metro International Church on Evergreen Avenue to her home on Jefferson, to cook: "Arroz con gandules; that's yellow rice and pigeon peas. Served with pork — we call it pernil. Hey, we are Puerto Rican," says Mrs. Medina's daughter, Enid Marie, 18, who, along with her sister, Amy, 14, and father, Eli, constituted the other focus of Mrs. Medina's life. Such Saturdays, even more than the Sunday services, were the happiest moments in her week, Enid Marie remembered.

Mrs. Medina's life in Bushwick was blessedly far from the pace of Wall Street, where she worked at Guy Carpenter reinsurance brokerage on the 94th floor of 1 World Trade Center. What helped her through many workdays were hymns, and one that she especially loved, Enid Marie said, starting to hum: "I am running to the mercy seat, where Jesus is calling."

— Dec. 15, 2001


From A.&P. to Wall Street

Hey, tell the guys in Bensonhurst: Joe's horse came in first at Freehold the other day.

Yeah, the same Joseph Plumitallo who used to be the stock boy at the Stillwell Avenue A.&P., where at 17 he caught the eye of Doreen Manno, 16, the meat wrapper. Got married and lived in a room in his parents' house on Lake Street. Talked his way into a bottom-rung job on Wall Street. Rode the F train to his future, as a Cantor Fitzgerald bond broker. Went from a polyester suit at the 1976 Lafayette High prom to wearing pinstripes, buying a few horses, and, at 45, treating clients to Super Bowls.

He was quite a talker. He would start that story of how Ms. Manno nodded off after one drink on a date at Dangerfield's, slept through dinner, dessert, "the whole show, asleep" and — here's where his smile would widen, eyes locked on Ms. Manno's, for the punch line — "in the ladies' room." And so many other stories.

Dressed impeccably, he would take his daughters, Genna, 11, and Lisa, 9, in new white outfits, to the hometown Father-Daughter Dance in Manalapan, N.J. He would drive his son, Joseph Jr., 5, over to the stable at Gaitway Farm on a Saturday to watch his favorite, El Diablo, get ready to race.

Are Diablo and the others still racing? You bet. It was Genna's wish, and Lisa's, and Joe Jr.'s. And you have to believe it would have been Joe's.

— Dec. 11, 2001


A Soft Spot for Snow

When the snow comes, the real stuff, deep enough to keep most Staten Islanders indoors, the hardy few on skis or sleighs in the hills of LaTourette Park will remember a joyful Jeannine M. LaVerde on her sled. Her dream, she said, was to tackle some real snow, Alaska. She was fearless, her Aunt Janet recalls. Her response to the fiercest of snowstorms was to trudge out to take somebody fresh bread and milk.

Ms. LaVerde drew on her courage last year to take a tougher job, in new accounts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, on the 89th floor of 2 World Trade Center. So high, her mother-in-law fretted. "Don't worry," replied Ms. LaVerde, 36. "I can run down the stairs. Any problem, I'm out of there."

She had a son, Christopher Sodano, 10. The whole family would gather each Labor Day at Daniels, a Poconos resort, where she would cheer as Christopher socked home runs on the softball diamond. When he took home this year's batting trophy, she pronounced the vacation "the best ever."

Then, back to work.

— Dec. 10, 2001


On-the-Money Instincts

At 24, Dianne Gladstone, the meticulous young tax official, followed her romantic instincts. She would marry this fellow who had offered — on a blind date no less — a pricey dinner at Maxwell's Plum, in Manhattan's archetypal 1970's singles spot. A year later, she was a Mrs.

And as in her public life — 37 years at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance — her instincts were right on the money. She and Herb Gladstone, a crane operator, skied, hit the Broadway shows, traveled. Each year they celebrated the holidays at the Queensboro Hill Jewish Center, where they were married, and then it was off to the Caribbean.

Even at home, she was, "organized, maybe too organized," Mr. Gladstone recalled. In their Forest Hills home she had tax files going back to when they had met, he said, recalling her fondness for her tax work as section chief in Tower Two, 86th floor.

Yet in her favorite photo, on the beach at Provincetown at sunset last Labor Day, Dianne Gladstone, at 55, looked as happy as Mr. Gladstone could ever remember, perhaps because her thoughts were far away from tax codes, the paper shredder and the job she treasured. She had decided to retire — to their new house, near the water, on the north fork of Long Island. The moving date was next April.

— Dec. 4, 2001