A product of Detroit, Ernest Burkeen graduated from Western High School in 1966. He served four years in the United States Navy, two years aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga stationed out of Mayfield, Florida, and two years in Kenitra, Morocco. He attended Michigan State University where he earned both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts degree.
Employment opportunities began at Michigan State University as a graduate assistant responsible for the Recreational Sports Program. Additional opportunities were provided at the University of Michigan as an Assistant Director in the Recreation Sports Department; a Recreation Instructor with the City of Detroit; an Assistant Park Superintendent with Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority; Park Superintendent with Huron-Clinton; and finally Director of the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department.
Since 1988, Mr. Burkeen has taught a Parks and Recreation Administration class and a Contemporary Issues in Recreation class at Eastern Michigan University as an Adjunct Professor. In 1996 he became a Fellow at Boston University School of Public Health, Join Together, a substance abuse leadership effort. His professional involvement includes Past President of the Michigan Recreation and Park Association; Public Policy Chair; several committee chair positions; Past President of the National Recreation & Park Ethnic Minority Society; Chair, Board of Regents, Supervisors Management School, North Carolina State University; Great Lakes Region Representative; Board Member APRS; member of the NRPA Board of Trustees and Chairperson of the Program Committee for NRPA.
Mr. Burkeen's community involvement and individual awards are numerous. His most impressive and satisfying achievement, however, is personal. As a single parent, he raised a daughter and son. They were nine and six when he received custody of his children.
Professionally, Mr. Burkeen's specialty is large-scale events. Over a three-day period in May of 2000, his Electronic Music Festival at Hart Plaza attracted one million young people from all over the world.