April 8, 2023 – Ursula Burns, An Example of Black Excellence

Ursala Burns Image

Ursula Burns served as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Xerox from 2009 to 2016.  She also served on the board of directors of multiple large American companies, including Uber, American Express and ExxonMobil.

Ursula Burns led Xerox for seven years, stepping down in 2016 after a bruising battle with the activist investor Carl Icahn, which led to the company’s breakup.

Ms. Burns began her career as a mechanical engineering summer intern at Xerox. This internship was a part of a program designed to support underrepresented minorities. It gave her valuable experience and money to complete her Master’s degree at Columbia.

She rose to President of Xerox in 2007 and CEO in 2009. She was the first African American businesswoman to lead an S&P 500 company and a Fortune 500 company. She led the company during some very trying times.

She stepped down in 2017 when the company was being split.

In 2017, Burns was elected chairman of VEON, the world’s 11th largest telecom service provider by subscribers. 

Born in 1958 in the housing projects of New York City, she attended an all-girls school on East 56th Street.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from Columbia University.

Ursula was raised by a single mother in the Baruch Houses, a housing project in New York City.  Both parents were from the country of Panama.  She graduated from a Catholic all-girls school on East 56th Street in New York.

Ursula has received numerous honorary degrees from New York University, Howard University, Xavier University, and Georgetown University, to name a few.  She was named by President Obama to lead the national program on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as well as lead his Export Council. As of December 2020, Burns is said to have a net worth of at least $1.24 billion.

In a Harvard Business Review interview, she talks about being viewed as freakishly gifted and she realized that when people would say “you are so amazing” they were saying without knowing that they have to identify me as “spectacular” or acknowledge that others who look like me can be at the table as well.  “I’m not amazing. I’m here because I’m as good as you.”

Ursula Burns published a memoir entitled “Where You Are Is Not Who You Are” that can be purchased from Amazon.

150 150 Ethel Mitchell

Leave a Reply