Lynne Burnett doesn’t seek the spotlight.
She is, however, the person who does the behind-the-scenes work to make sure what happens in the spotlight goes off without a hitch.
The First Lady of the University of Mobile is “very much a do-it-myself type of person.”
Sometimes, that means planning logistics and creating centerpieces for presidential receptions and dinners or arranging the serving dishes she brought from home for the faculty/staff Christmas luncheon. Other times, it’s weeding a flower bed or cleaning years of grime from shelves, then staining them, during the renovation of the university’s College Woods Center.
“She has a tremendous work ethic,” says her husband of nearly 43 years, UM President Lonnie Burnett.
During the summer of 2022, Lynne spent nearly every day working on the College Woods Center renovation project, doing everything from sweeping floors to selecting paint and flooring.
“She is vital behind the scenes,” Burnett said. Among her roles is presidential driver – together, the couple travels thousands of miles a year for his speaking engagements at churches and visits with university supporters.
“She won’t let me drive,” Burnett says.
“His driving scares me to death,” Lynne explains. “He’s got so much going on – the phone is constantly ringing, or somebody is texting him. He’s typically working in the car, which is really the reason I’m driving.”
They met through a mutual friend when she was 17. He was 19 and a student at then-Mobile College. They later married. She started college at the University of South Alabama, took a 13-year break to raise their daughter, then transferred to
UM and completed her bachelor’s degree in management in 1996. (Their daughter, Lauren Burnett Wetzel, graduated from UM in 2009 and 2019. She and husband Cody have a son, Alexander.)
Along the way, Burnett earned master’s and doctoral degrees, had a 25-year career as a history teacher with the Mobile County Public School System, joined the UM faculty, authored several books on Alabama history, and rose through the ranks to become a tenured professor, dean and academic administrator.
Through it all, Lynne was at his side, helping with everything from research for his books to hosting gatherings for faculty and students, while also holding a full-time job in accounting for a shipping company.
“I’ve never felt the need to be in the spotlight; I’d rather be in the background. I’m fine fixing the food and cleaning up in the kitchen afterward.
“We’ve both been up here at the school many times after storms, picking up limbs, because it just needed to be done,” Lynne says. “If I see something that needs doing, I will do it.”