Ursula Burns

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Ursula Burns
Burns in 2004
Born (1958-09-20) September 20, 1958 (age 64)
New York City, U.S.
EducationBrooklyn Polytechnic Institute (BS)
Columbia University (MS)
Known forFormer CEO of Xerox
TitleSenior advisor, Teneo
Board member ofVEON
American Express
SpouseLloyd Bean (died 2019)

Ursula M. Burns (born September 20, 1958) is an American businesswoman. Burns is mostly known for being the CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016, the first among black women to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and the first woman to succeed another as head of a Fortune 500 company.[1][2] She additionally was Xerox's chairman from 2010 to 2017.[3][4]

Burns is also known for serving on the board of directors on multiple large American companies, including Uber, American Express, and ExxonMobil. She was the chairman and CEO of VEON from late 2018 to early 2020, and the Chairwoman of Teneo.

In 2014, Forbes rated her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world.[5] Among other civic positions, she was a leader of the STEM program of the White House from 2009 to 2016, and head of the President's Export Council from 2015 until 2016.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Burns was raised by a single mother in the Baruch Houses, a New York city housing project.[1] Both of her parents were Panamanian immigrants. She attended Cathedral High School, a Catholic all-girls school on East 56th Street in New York. She went on to obtain a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now New York University Tandon School of Engineering) in 1980 and a master of science in mechanical engineering from Columbia University a year later.[7][8][9] She has since received additional honorary degrees from New York University,[10] Williams College,[11] the University of Pennsylvania,[12] Howard University,[13] Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,[14] The City College of New York,[15] Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT),[16] the University of Rochester,[17] Xavier University,[18] and Georgetown University.[19]

Business career[edit]


Burns first worked for Xerox as a summer intern in 1980, and permanently joined a year later, after completing her master's degree. She worked in various roles in product development and planning at the company for the remainder of the 1980s.[20] In January 1990, her career took an unexpected turn when Wayland Hicks, then a senior executive, offered Burns a job as his executive assistant. She accepted and worked for him for roughly nine months before returning home because she was about to marry.[21] In June 1991, she then became executive assistant to then chairman and chief executive Paul Allaire. In 1999, she was named vice president for global manufacturing.[20] In May 2000, Burns was named senior vice president of corporate strategic services and began working closely with soon-to-be CEO Anne Mulcahy, in what both women have described as a true partnership. Two years later, Burns became president of business group operations.[22]

In 2007, Burns assumed the role of president of Xerox.[22] In July 2009 she was named CEO, succeeding Mulcahy, who remained as chairwoman until May 2010.[20] The first black woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company,[1] Burns was also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company.[2] Shortly after being named CEO, Burns led the acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services.[23] While as CEO, Burns was named an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2013.[24] In 2016, she led Xerox in a split into two independent companies:[25] Xerox Corporation and Conduent Incorporated.[23] She remained chairwoman and CEO of Xerox through the process, and was then appointed chairwoman of the standalone document technology company.[26] After stepping down from the position in December 2016, Burns was succeeded by Jeff Jacobson. She retained the title of chairwoman of the newly formed document technology company[25] until May 2017, when she left the Xerox board and her role as chairperson.[27]

Public service roles[edit]

U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns to help lead the White House National STEM program in 2009,[28][29] and she remained a leader of the STEM program until 2016.[6] In March 2010 President Obama appointed Burns as vice chair of the President's Export Council,[28][29] which she led from 2015 to 2016.[6]

Board roles[edit]

Burns has served on numerous boards, including those of Boston Scientific,[7] FIRST, the National Association of Manufacturers, the University of Rochester, the MIT Corporation, the Rochester Business Alliance, and the RUMP Group.[7] She remains a board director of the American Express Corporation,[28][30] Exxon Mobil Corporation,[31] Datto Inc.,[28][32] and Nestlé.[23] In July 2017, it was announced that she would join the board of the beverage company Diageo on April 2, 2018.[25] She joined Teneo as a senior advisor in June 2017.[23] Burns joined the board of directors of Uber in late September 2017.[33] In 2020, she was appointed to the board of directors of Waystar.[34]


In July 2017, Burns was elected chairman of VEON, the world's 11th largest telecoms service provider by subscribers,[35] by its board of directors.[36] With the sudden departure of the CEO in March 2018, she was made executive chairwoman pending a selection process, and in December 2018, she was appointed as CEO.[37]

In February 2020, Kaan Terzioğlu and Sergi Herrero were appointed co-CEOs, succeeding Burns.[38] In June 2020, Gennady Gazin succeeded Burns as chairman.[39]


Though Burns was announced to be joining Diageo board as a non executive director but Diageo announced on March 2018, that "Burns will not take up her appointment as Non-Executive Director on the Diageo Board" as she has been appointed as interim Executive Chairman of VEON[40]

Community activities[edit]

Burns provides leadership counsel to community, educational and non-profit organizations including FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others.[28][better source needed] She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the U.S.'s education system in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).[28][41] She served as vice chairwoman of the executive committee of The Business Council between 2013 and 2014.[42][43] She has delivered the commencement address at universities including Rochester Institute of Technology,[44] MIT,[45] the University of Rochester,[46] Xavier University,[47] Howard University,[48] Williams College,[49] and Georgetown University.[19]

She has been listed multiple times by Forbes as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. In 2015, she was listed as the 29th.[5] In 2018 she was featured among "America's Top 50 Women In Tech".[50]

In 2016 hacked emails revealed she was on a list of potential candidates for vice president for Hillary Clinton.[51]

Personal life[edit]

Burns was married to Lloyd Bean until his death in 2019; he also worked at Xerox, and they lived in Rochester, New York.[20][52] She has a daughter Melissa (born c. 1992) and a stepson Malcolm (born c. 1989) who attended MIT.[20][53] Burns has been a major donor to McQuaid Jesuit High School in New York.[54]


Burns published a memoir, Where You Are Is Not Who You Are: A Memoir, in 2021.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Byrnes, Nanette; Crockett, Roger O. (8 June 2009). "An Historic Succession At Xerox". Business Week.
  2. ^ a b Shambora, Jessica (22 May 2009). "Xerox'snext CEO: Ursula Burns". Archived from the original on 3 May 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Xerox's stock price is rising, but it's not what you think". democratandchronicle.com. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  4. ^ Johnson, Kandia (6 January 2017). "Ursula Burns Steps Down as XEROX CEO After Company Split". blackenterprise.com. Black Enterprise Magazine. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  5. ^ a b "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes.
  6. ^ a b c [1], "Xerox's Ursula Burns: U.S. Businesses Must Embrace Globalization ", US News, Gaby Galvin, May 5, 2017
  7. ^ a b c "Ursula M. Burns". BlackEntrepreneurProfile.com.
  8. ^ "Ursula Burns, CEO". Xerox. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Xerox CEO Ursula Burns MS'82 ME to Speak at Class Day". engineering.columbia.edu. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  10. ^ [2] "Ursula M. BurnsReceives Honorary Doctorate from NYU," New York University, May 12, 2010
  11. ^ [3] "Williams College Announces its 2015 Honorary Degree Recipients," Williams College, March 18, 2015
  12. ^ [4] "Penn's 2013 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients," University of Pennsylvania, March 12, 2013
  13. ^ ""Recipients of Honorary Degrees and Other University Honors (by year)," Howard University". howard.edu. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  14. ^ [5] "Remarks at 2013 Honorary Degree Recipients Dinner," Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, May 2013
  15. ^ [6] "CCNY Names Top Three for 2015 Commencement Honors," The City College of New York, March 12, 2015
  16. ^ "Ursula Burns Inspires RIT Graduates to Strive for the 'Unimaginable'". www.rit.edu. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Commencement :: University of Rochester". www.rochester.edu. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  18. ^ "Ursula Burns is Xavier University's commencement speaker". nola.com. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  19. ^ a b "Georgetown Announces 2018 Commencement Speakers". www.georgetown.edu. 4 May 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d e Bryant, Adam (20 February 2010). "Xerox's New Chief Tries to Redefine Its Culture". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "Leading the way: Ursula Burns". London Business School.
  22. ^ a b "Ursula Burns | USOC Board of Directors". Team USA. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d [7], "Ursula M. Burns joins Teneo as Senior Advisor," Teneo, June 28, 2017
  24. ^ "60 new Fellows elected to the Academy for 2013". Royal Academy of Engineering. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  25. ^ a b c [8], "Diageo announces appointment to its Board of Directors," Webwire, July 26, 2017
  26. ^ [9], "Xerox Names Ursula BurnsChairman of Post-Separation Document Technology Company," Xerox, May 20, 2016
  27. ^ [10], "Robert Keegan replaces UrsulaBurns as Xerox chairman," Rochester Business Journal, Velvet Spicer, May 24, 2017
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Ursula M. Burns, Director since: 2007". Xerox. 1 August 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  29. ^ a b "Ursula M. Burns". The White House. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  30. ^ "AXP Company Profile & Executives - American Express Co. - Wall Street Journal". quotes.wsj.com. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  31. ^ "Ursula M. Burns Elected to ExxonMobil Board". ExxonMobil News Releases. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  32. ^ "Datto, Inc.: Board of Directors - Bloomberg". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  33. ^ "Travis Kalanick appoints Ursula Burns, John Thain to Uber's board". techcrunch.com. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  34. ^ "Waystar Appoints Ursula Burns to Board of Directors". prnewswire.com. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  35. ^ [11], "VEON names former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns as chairwoman," Reuters, Eric Auchard, July 24, 2017
  36. ^ [12], "VEON board elects former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns as chairman," Reuters and The Economic Times, July 24, 2017
  37. ^ Bicheno, Scott (13 December 2018). "Burns officially made Veon CEO at last". Telecoms.com. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  38. ^ Burkitt-Gray, Alan (14 February 2020). "New Co-CEOs for Veon as Ursula Burns Rreverts to Chairmanship". Capacity Media. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  39. ^ Boyadzhieva, Yanitsa (2 June 2020). "Veon Settles on New Chair, Board Members". Mobile World Live. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  40. ^ GmbH, finanzen net. "Diageo Says Ursula Burns Not To Take Up Non-Executive Director Role On Board". markets.businessinsider.com. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  41. ^ "Fem Boss: Ursula Burns – Chairman & CEO of Xerox Corporation - Innov8tiv". innov8tiv.com. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  42. ^ "Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris Elected Chairman, The Business Council" (Press release). Business Wire. 19 October 2012.
  43. ^ Press Release: The Dow Chemical Company, Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris Elected Chairman, The Business Council, Yahoo!, October 19, 2012
  44. ^ "Xerox President Ursula Burns Selected as RIT's 2009 Commencement Speaker". RIT.edu.
  45. ^ Turner, Elijah Jordan (9 November 2010). "Xerox CEO Ursula M. Burns to speak at Commencement". The Tech.
  46. ^ "Xerox Corporation CEO UrsulaBurns to Address University of Rochester College Commencement". Rochester.edu.
  47. ^ [13][dead link]
  48. ^ [14] "Xerox Chairman & CEO Ursula M. Burns to Deliver Howard University 2015 Commencement Address," Howard University, April 23, 2015
  49. ^ [15] "Ursula M. Burns, Commencement Speaker," Williams College, 2015
  50. ^ "Anne Aaron". Forbes.
  51. ^ Seitz-Wald, Alex (18 October 2016). "Hacked emails reveal 39 names on Clinton's "first cut" VP list". NBC News.
  52. ^ "Lloyd Bean Obituary - Rochester, NY | Rochester Democrat And Chronicle".
  53. ^ Alesci, Cristina. "Xerox's Ursula Burns: Business is made for men". CNNMoney. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  54. ^ [16], "Major gifts make major difference," Catholic Courier, Mike Latona, August 4, 2014
  55. ^ "Where You Are Is Not Who You Are: A Memoir". GoodReads.

Further reading[edit]

  • Pendergast, Sara.; Pendergast, Tom; Gale, Thomson (2007). Contemporary Black biography. Volume 60 : profiles from the international Black community. Detroit: Thomson Gale. ISBN 978-1-4144-9766-2. OCLC 170034863.
  • Britton, Dana M.; Hetfield, Lisa (2016). Junctures in women's leadership : business. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-6593-4. OCLC 917888397.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by President of Xerox
Chief Executive Officer of Xerox
Succeeded by
Chair of Xerox
Succeeded by
Keith Cozza