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Legacy Society Members Ron & Sally Burns

A Gift for the Future

Burns family in front of truck

The gleaming 1971 long wheelbase Land Rover that its in Ron Burns' driveway is much more than just a collector's dream. It's a sentimental reminder of how he met his wife of 52 years, Sally. The couple was first introduced back in 1967 on a Transcontinental Overland Expedition roundtrip from London to India where Ron was the lead driver. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Ron was then enrolled at the London School of Economics and had completed a U.K. to Jordan and Afghanistan adventure on a similar Rover. This time however, instead of a beefy 4x4, Ron, Sally and 16 other passengers rode on a dilapidated bus for the 16,000 mile, three month-long trip, long before the conveniences of GPS or cell phones. On the beaches of Greece, Ron became smitten with Sally and learned that despite her traditional Southern roots, she was no shrinking violet; in fact, she was a steel magnolia. She had left her North Carolina home town to join two friends on the expedition, during which she became a brave and helpful navigator, a role she has cheerfully played for many years for Ron and their family of three children and five grandchildren.

Ron and Sally looking at leach other

When Ron and Sally moved from the East Coast to Santa Barbara ten years ago, they were very fortunate to have Kurt Ransohoff, MD, FACP as their primary care physician. Before that, big city hospitals had provided most of their healthcare, and they were initially cautious about whether the same high quality could be found here in a much smaller community. “It was a real eye opener and a big transition, but suddenly we became surrounded with best in class,” shares Ron. Now in their late 70s, they both greatly appreciate when Dr. Ransohoff is able to connect them to other Sansum Clinic departments like Physical Therapy, and specialists like gastroenterologist Dr. William Hahn, podiatrist Dr. John Rasmussen, orthopedic physician Dr. James Zmolek, and surgeon Dr. Ben Howard“With MyChart, each doctor can run everything down easily and can be in touch with each other so you are not scrambling,” explains Sally. “I feel now like we are part of a family. The more we need them, the more they are there for us.” Ron has also observed how the physicians rely on the great professionalism and courtesy of the nurses and staff. “They are always very careful, disciplined, and everything is reviewed. Your time is respected. If you need to make changes, no problem,” he notes. “We have a deep emotional connection now with the Clinic, from people at the top to dedicated staff at the front desks.” Access to medical excellence and expertise became even more critical when their son, David required a liver transplant seven years ago. Their entire family was thrown into a stressful, medical whirlwind that began with terrible experiences at 2 regional hospitals out of the area, and ended with a world-famous UCLA surgeon performing a lifesaving transplant.

Ron became David’s relentless medical advocate and caregiver, immersing himself in his son’s diagnosis and care. Ultimately, David came through his recovery with flying colors, and he is now in the care of Sansum Clinic internal medicine physician Dr. Bryce Holderness and Sansum Clinic nephrologist Dr. William Golgert for regular monitoring. Ron says the experience was “death-defying” and left them all forever changed; even more grateful for their son’s life, and committed to making a difference in the lives of others. “I want to use our time in the best possible way, and that means being involved with organizations and people that we care deeply about,” he remarks.

As the former CEO/North America and President of Global Business at advertising agency giant J. Walter Thompson, Ron managed national and international clients and brands for more than 34 years in positions across Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States. When he retired in 2004, he was not content to sit still. “To quote Oscar de la Renta, ‘When you rest, you rust’,” he announces with a grin. “We should all have relevance.” Ron has served on non-profit boards for institutions he and Sally have supported throughout their lives, and he’s energized when he can contribute his time and talent, on top of a financial gift. One example of this is how he and his daughter, Mollie helped to found Exceptional Minds, an academy and studio preparing young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in animation, visual effects, 3D gaming and other related entertainment fields. The inspiration came from Ron and Sally’s beloved autistic grandson, P.K.

Joining the Legacy Society and committing to include Sansum Clinic in their estate plan was an easy decision for the Burns. When the couple discussed the special connection they had to their medical team, they agreed they needed to do something more. Ron has always been passionate about preserving the best of the present for future generations. He once transported American master blacksmith Samuel Yellin’s wrought iron entryways from the 1920s offices of J. Walter Thompson to his California home to save the historic art. At this point in their lives, Ron and Sally have more heart warming and hilarious stories of road trips and shared adventures than they can count. They are now focused on making a difference for their children and grandchildren, and for institutions they believe are dedicated to improving the lives of others. “We are incredibly lucky to be here with our family and our extended family at Sansum Clinic,” shares Ron. “The relationship is hugely important, and we are happy to know that everyone there has our back.” The ability to give in this way brings them tremendous joy, according to Sally. “We are fortunate to be able to share what we have. It is a great feeling.”

Photo caption: Ron and Sally Burns

If you wish to leave a gift or would like information about the Sansum Clinic Legacy Society, please contact:
Dru A. Hartley
Director of Philanthropy
(805) 681-7726