A Brief Winburne Biography
Dewey Lee Winburne (1957-1999) was a pioneering community, educational, and multimedia technology leader in Austin, Texas, during the digital
New Media Revolution in the late 1980s-90s, a revolution in global communications that transformed society and the identity of Austin.
Winburne was prominent in Austin’s early multimedia industry on a grassroots level in his advocacy of new media to local government, chamber, and professional groups, and in larger organized efforts, such as his co-founding the SXSW Interactive Festival and regional workforce-training projects.
Though interactive new media technology has become all but transparent since Winburne’s early leadership in Austin, his aspirations to use new media for social good — both in local and national outreach — distinguish him as a community leader in his contributions to the city at a pivotal time in its history.
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Born in 1957 in Austin, Winburne received a BA in 1985 with high honors in English literature and sociology as well as a certificate in secondary education from The University of Texas at Austin. He undertook further master’s studies in theology at Regent College, BC, Canada. Prior to his formal education, he hiked through Europe, living in a commune-monastery in Switzerland.
During his career, he dedicated himself to creating innovative multimedia educational opportunities for a diverse range of groups, from at-risk youth to adult learners to professional developers. His enthusiasm for new media and his service-oriented values led him into alternative education, workforce training, and industry development before his early death in 1999.
In using multimedia as a newly emerging technology and social tool to help others improve their lives, Winburne:
- Produced CD-ROM multimedia courses on Addiction and Recovery that received the foremost national industry awards, interactive courseware he co-developed with his at-risk youth students at the Austin charter school, American Institute for Learning (1994);
- Co-founded the now internationally-acclaimed SXSW Interactive Festival (1994), a multi-day conference and professional gathering, which has grown to an attendance of more than 35,000 as of 2016;
- Co-created (with Dr. George Kozmetsky) the statewide EnterTech Project, a new media workforce-training program preparing entry-level Texas workers for the Internet-driven
New Economy(project launched in 2000 with UT-Austin); and
- Established an entrepreneurial new media communications company, Interactive Architex (1995), to develop further social services-minded projects, including a multimedia magnet school for Austin’s public school system.
In character, Winburne was known widely for his visionary outlook, creative drive, and personal generosity. His charismatic nature fostered a powerful sense of community in others, motivating and energizing those around him. Whether within his many professional or personal communities, he inspired optimism and goodwill above any desire for personal gain.
A family man, Winburne married Dorothy Gilbertson (m. 1983) in Austin, with whom he had a son, Isaac (b. 1989). He was a long-time active member of the historic downtown church St. David’s Episcopal Church. He also volunteered with Down Home Ranch, Habitat for Humanity, and The Walker Percy Educational Project, among other non-profit organizations. A 1999 posthumous City of Austin Proclamation signed by Mayor Kirk Watson records Winburne’s many service contributions to the Austin community.
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Winburne’s legacy of leadership continues through the examples of his service-oriented new media educational projects as well as the individuals he inspired and reached through them. Since 1999, the SXSW Interactive Festival has offered the SXSW Community Service Awards in Winburne's honor. The awards recognize and encourage 10 individuals from around the world who use digital technology to benefit their local communities or broader populations across the Internet.
In all, Winburne is remembered for touching the lives of countless individuals of all walks of life with his uncommon display of humanity and the passionate mission he felt to assist others, especially the less fortunate. As a highly dynamic individual, Winburne represents the very best of community leadership and humanitarian service at the start of a new technological age.
*Winburne quote from Austin Area Multimedia Alliance Newsletter, Feb. 1996.