This spring, Austin Burzynski was all set to be the fifth in his family to walk across the stage in Zorn Arena during a UW-Eau Claire commencement ceremony.
While COVID-19 upended his plans and canceled the spring ceremony, Burzynski still is celebrating knowing that he is part of his family’s Blugold legacy.
“When my younger brother, Samuel, graduates three semesters from now, we will have six siblings graduate from UW-Eau Claire,” says Burzynski, a Stanley native who earned his degree in elementary education in January but planned to participate in the spring commencement ceremony. “We come from a family of seven kids and only one of us did not attend UW-Eau Claire. All seven of the Burzynski kids will have graduated from college by December 2022.”
Pretty impressive, he says, since they are first-generation college students raised by a single mother.
“My mother is the biggest fan of all of ours and her raising us was a large part of all of us going to college,” Burzynski says of his mother, Jane. “She truly is a superhero.”
With six of the seven Burzynski siblings UW-Eau Claire alumni or students, the campus continues to be a huge part of his family’s life even though his older brothers and sisters now are scattered around Wisconsin, Burzynski says.
“We take a lot of pride in being Blugolds,” Burzynski says. “Being Blugolds is a bond that brings us together, which is really cool.
“We talk about UWEC a good amount when we are together since I’m a recent graduate and my younger brother still plays football here. We also have so many friends we made here that UWEC will be a place that is always with us.”
Jane Burzynski says that while she is happy that six of her children went to UW-Eau Claire, building a family of Blugolds was never something that she set out to do.
“As a mother, I wanted all of them to choose their own path, which — for the most part — happened to be UWEC,” Jane Burzynski says, adding that she was glad they all chose schools close enough to home that she could watch them play college sports. “So, UW-Eau Claire will always hold a special place in our family’s hearts.”
Burzynski says it was a bonus that he attended UW-Eau Claire at the same time as two of his siblings.
He was a freshman when his sister, Julie, was a senior, so he leaned on her as he adjusted to college life. He then gave that same kind of support to his younger brother, Sam, when he was a freshman.
While he did follow in his older siblings’ footsteps, Burzynski says their success on campus isn’t the only reason he became a Blugold.
“I chose UW-Eau Claire because it offered everything I wanted in a university,” Burzynski says. “It is one of the best degrees you can get in the Midwest.”
Once he arrived on campus, it did not take him long to find an academic path that allows him to pursue two of his passions — teaching and coaching.
In addition to his education major, Burzynski also completed a minor in the science of coaching.
“I have always wanted to be a college football coach,” says Burzynski, who played football at UW-Eau Claire. “One of the best avenues to coaching is teaching.”
Playing football as a Blugold was among the highlights of his time at UW-Eau Claire, Burzynski says, noting that his older siblings also were student-athletes during their years on campus.
“I was on the football team from 2015-19 and loved every second of it,” Burzynski says. “While on the team, I made lifelong friends and memories that I will never forget.”
In addition to playing football, he also was the secretary and football representative for the Student Athlete Advisory Council, a campus group that brings all Blugold sports teams together to talk about things like community service events, NCAA proposals and WIAC proposals.
With his degree now in hand, he already has his first coaching job lined up. Beginning in the fall, he will be an assistant football coach at UW-Eau Claire.
“I enjoy teaching at all age levels, and right now I am set to help young adults be better men and football players,” Burzynski say of helping to coach the Blugold team. “It is a dream of mine to be a college football coach.
“Starting my career coaching at my alma mater means so much to me as I begin to learn the ins and outs of the coaching world.”
Burzynski says he is confident he has the knowledge and skills he will need to excel in teaching and coaching thanks to UW-Eau Claire professors, staff and coaches who have supported and encouraged him throughout his college journey.
Wherever life takes him in the future, he will carry UW-Eau Claire with him because as a Blugold he made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime, Burzynski says.
“UW-Eau Claire is where I found my best friends and earned an amazing degree,” Burzynski says. “I will never forget the memories of the last five years. UW-Eau Claire will always have a special place in my heart.”
Top photo caption: Austin Burzynski is the fifth from his family to graduate from UW-Eau Claire.