Patricia Millar Burland, 94, a clinical social worker who taught and mentored many who followed in her footsteps, died Friday, June 11, of myelodysplastic syndromes a blood disorder, at Waverly Heights, an independent living community in Gladwyne.
Professionalism and dedication were prime features in the life of Mrs. Burland, a woman who championed social-work education and valued independence, especially her own.
“She was amazing. She was ahead of her time in many instances,” said Noreen McGuigan, the executor of her estate and a paralegal with Joseph A. Walheim & Associates, which handled her and her husband’s legal affairs.
The only child of William A. and Florence Dumbleton Millar, Mrs. Burland graduated from Haddonfield Memorial High School. She went on to graduate from both Smith College and Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.
For more than 50 years, Mrs. Burland maintained a private counseling practice in her Bala Cynwyd home. Her dedication to her clients was steadfast. She was still treating patients up until about five years ago, despite her advanced age.
“These few people she saw until they were on their feet,” said McGuigan. “She was devoted to her patients.”
Mrs. Burland was also committed to social-work education and the field in general. Throughout her career, she trained and mentored generations of clinical social workers, many of whom became and remained her friends.
In the 1960s, she was a member of the faculty of the School of Social Work and Social Research, and she returned to teach courses from time to time. She was also involved in the creation of a three-year post-master’s training program for clinical social workers by the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work.
Together with the Children’s Aid Society, Mrs. Burland helped develop a program for recent college graduates to explore careers in social work. She was also instrumental in bringing the principles of clinical social work to Montgomery County’s Juvenile Probation Department.
In addition to her clinical and academic endeavors, she participated in forming the Statement of the Code of Ethics of the Pennsylvania Society for Clinical Social Work, and she served as chairwoman of the society’s ethics committee for many years.
Her contributions were respected by her colleagues. In 2008, Mrs. Burland was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the School of Social Work and Social Research. At its centennial celebration, she was honored as one of its 100 Distinguished Alumni.
Mrs. Burland was the devoted wife of J. Alexis Burland, a physician who died in 2004. They both kept offices in their Bala Cynwyd home, were members of the Union League, loved dogs, and traveled extensively.
But Mrs. Burland was a very independent woman, too. Her husband had handled the couple’s finances, and when he died, Mrs. Burland — by then nearly 80 — wanted to take that on herself, McGuigan said.
“She asked me if I would devote some time to teaching her the computer, especially QuickBooks,” said the executor. “I did, and she learned the computer at her age.”
She also mastered ordering groceries online. She studied French, both reading and conversing. She drove a car until just a few years ago.
“She was very interesting to talk to,” McGuigan said. “She had a lot of life experiences from traveling.”
She and her husband had no children. They were both cremated, and she left instructions to be carried out later this summer that their ashes be scattered at Pine Island Camp at Great Pond, Belgrade Lakes, Maine, an area the couple were especially fond of.
“She wanted her remains and his remains commingled,” McGuigan said.