Karl Bürke was born in St. Gallen on 13 December 1873 to Jakob Adolf Engelbert Bürke, a merchant and later President of the Commercial Directorate.
Bürke studied law in Munich, Freiburg im Breisgau, Heidelberg and Bern and earned his doctorate at the University of Bern. After completing his education, he worked in the prestigious law office of the later Federal Councillor Arthur Hoffmann in St. Gallen. Bürke then worked for a short time in insurance law before turning to journalism and working for the Tagblatt der Stadt St.Gallen newspaper. He also held office of interrogation judge in the canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden and that of me-diator in the city of St.Gallen.
In 1910, Karl Bürke was appointed Full Professor of Law at the business academy, having already taught in the winter semester 1902/03. Five years later, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung tried to woo him over with the promise to pay double the salary. Bürke declined the offer, however, and remained at the academy.
In 1920, Professor Bürke was elected to be president of the school and three years later re-elected for a second term. He was a brilliant speaker, somewhat idealistic and generally popular. A highlight of his presidency was the 25th anniversary celebration of the rapidly growing school.
After a semester of leave in 1931, Bürke was unable to return to his academic activities for health reasons. His health did not improve until his retirement in 1932. Later HSG appointed Bürke Honorary Professor.
In addition to his academic activities, Karl Bürke served for over 20 years on the civ-ic council of St.Gallen (1912-1933), in which he took on the role of vice-president. He was also a long-standing member of the cantonal Education Council (1919-1927). Bürke also wrote and composed theatre plays and hymns, an activity that was his great passion.
Karl Bürke died on 5 October 1934 in St. Gallen.