As one of the pioneers in the sports information field, Burrell helped establish the guidelines for his profession and is remembered by his peers and contemporaries as a tireless promoter of ISU athletic teams as well as a consummate professional and a caring individual. The national athletic media relations organization, College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), elected Burrell into its Hall of Fame as a member of its second class (1970).
Current PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl director Tom Starr succeeded Burrell as Iowa State's sports information director in 1977. Burrell served a short stint as an assistant to Starr to aid in the SID office's transition after stepping aside as head SID because of University age limitation rules.
"Harry Burrell was my mentor and I thought the world of him," Starr said. "He was 'Mr. Iowa State,' a man that served the University well for so many years and was so prominent among fellow SIDs. I am saddened to hear of this loss."
"Harry was one of the all-time greats in Iowa State athletics," long-time Des Moines Register sportswriter Buck Turnbull said. "I knew him over half of my life, and Harry was always a great help to us as reporters, a great man and very knowledgeable about Iowa State athletics. It was always a pleasure to cover Iowa State games when Harry was around. He will certainly be missed."
Some of Burrell's most memorable efforts include work with the Cyclone football team. Burrell oversaw publicity efforts for Iowa State's legendary "Dirty Thirty" team of 1959 as well as four ISU bowl teams in 1971, 1972, 1977 and 1978.
Ron Maly, another Des Moines Register reporter who worked with Burrell, seconded Turnbull's feelings about Burrell.
"Harry Burrell was one of the first sports information directors I had the fortune of meeting when I was a young sportswriter," Maly said. "Harry knew everything there was to know about athletics at Iowa State University and, in my opinion, was a big help to every sportswriter who contacted him for assistance. He was an outstanding representative of the University and he will be missed greatly from the Cyclone scene."
Burrell worked with Iowa State football coaches Ray Donels (1941-42), Mike Michalske (1942, 1946), Abe Stuber (1947-53), Vince DiFrancesca (1954-56), Jim Meyers (1957), Clay Stapleton (1958-67), Johnny Majors (1968-72) and Earle Bruce (1973-78). ISU men's basketball coaches Louis Menze (1942, 1945-47), Clayton Sutherland (1948-54), Bill Strannigan (1955-59), Glen Anderson (1960-71), Maury John (1972-74), Ken Trickey (1975-76) and Lynn Nance (1977-78) knew Burrell as a colleague. At Iowa State, Burrell worked for athletics directors George Veenker (1941-42, 1945), Menze (1945-58), Gordon Chalmers (1958-66), Stapleton (1967-70) and Lou McCullough (1971-78).
Burrell, who became a member of Iowa State's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, resided in Ames following his retirement in 1978. He was active physically in his later years and could be seen almost daily on his long morning walks on the streets of Ames through the most recent holiday season.
Paul Morrison, a fellow CoSIDA Hall of Fame member now in his 60th season of service at Drake University, was the Bulldogs' SID from 1945-70 and had known Burrell for nearly six decades.
"I've lost a great friend," Morrison said. "Harry and I started about the same time and we were good friends. He was a great professional."
In 1977, Omaha World-Herald columnist Wally Provost saluted Burrell.
"Bow ties, notes written in green ink, unflagging ambition and enthusiasm -- these are among the trademarks by which Harry Burrell has been known since he became Iowa State sports information director."
"Harry was already a legend in our profession when I got into the sports information field 20 years ago," Iowa State sports information director Tom Kroeschell said. "I was at a CoSIDA convention when (former Iowa State head football coach) Johnny Majors talked about how lucky he was to have Harry as his SID at Iowa State. Harry was always gracious and still wrote historical articles for us through the 1980s. Just look at all the different halls of fame in which he is a member. Harry was a treasure trove of historical information and we would lean on him for the perspective only that many years of experience could provide. Ultimately, he was a kind man and the best possible representative of Iowa State, the school he loved."
Harry Glenn Burrell was born Sept. 13, 1911, in Shawnee, Okla., to Luther and Loretta (Stark) Burrell. He attended Iowa City High School and received bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Iowa. He was the first sports information director at Iowa State Teachers College from 1934-41, and served as the publicity office for the North Central Conference. He was sports information director at Iowa State University from 1941 until his retirement in 1978. During World War II, he served as a gunnery officer in the United States Navy from 1943-45. On June 2, 1936, he married Gertrude Carper in Morrison, Ill..
"I was truly blessed to have him as a father," said son Steven Burrell. "He was a really great person and I was fortunate to have some additional time with him the last six months. He loved Iowa State University and the feeling was mutual."
Burrell was a board member of the Football Writers Association of America, Basketball Writers Association of America, Iowa Golf Association (past president), National Foundation and Football Hall of Fame (nominating committee), College Sports Information Directors of America (past president and editor of the CoSIDA News-Digest) and Ames Golden Agers. He served on the Ames Youth Committee, West Story County Red Cross Committee, Iowa Section Amateur Athletic Union (publicity chairman), U.S. Olympic Public Relations Committee and National AAU Publicity Committee. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church, Iowa Sportscasters Association, Sigma Delta Chi, Ames Elks Lodge (past exalted ruler, state vice president, district deputy Elks State Association) and Iowa State Retirees Association (chair). He was public relations consultant to the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations. He managed the Iowa Masters Golf Tournament for 40 years.
Burrell's awards include Helms Foundation Hall of Fame, CoSida Hall of Fame, Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame, Iowa Golf Hall of Fame, Iowa State Letterwinners' Athletic Hall of Fame, Catholic Youth Organization's National Award for service to media and the nation's youth, Iowa Daily Press Association Distinguished Service Award (1968), City of Ames Distinguished Service Award (1968), Iowa High School Athletic Directors Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to high school athletics, Special Citation from the Iowa State University student body for service to Iowa State and Faculty Citation for service to Iowa State.
He is survived by his wife Gertrude; a son Colonel (Ret.) Steven K. Burrell and his wife Jeanie of Greenback, Tenn.; three grandchildren: Kelly Multach and her husband Jeffrey of San Antonio, Texas; Amy Burrell-Tichy and her husband Guy of Streamwood, Ill.; and Tim Burrell and his wife Amy, of Coon Rapids, Minn.; seven great-grandchildren: Nicholas and Adam Multach; Joseph and Katherine Tichy; and Madison, Lauren, and Erin Burrell; and daughter-in-law Joan Burrell of Ames. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Helen Raber.