Ursula M. Burns (born September 20, 1958) serves as Madam Chairman (or Chairperson) and CEO of Xerox. She is the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. She is also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company. In 2009, Forbes rated her the 14th most powerful woman in the world.
Burns was raised by a single mother in the Baruch Houses, a New York city housing project. 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 then went on to obtain a bachelor of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU in 1980 and a master of science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University a year later.
Career at Xerox
Burns first worked for Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern and joined a year later after her master’s degree. She worked in various roles in product development and planning throughout her 20s. Her career took an unexpected turn when in January 1990 Wayland Hicks, then a senior executive, offered her a job as his executive assistant. Initially fearing that this would be a dead-end job, she accepted and rose through the ranks becoming executive assistant to then chairman and chief executive, Paul Allaire in June 1991 and eventually becoming vice president for global manufacturing in 1999. In 2000 she was named a senior vice president and began working closely with soon to be CEO Anne Mulcahy in what both women describe as a true partnership. She was named CEO in July 2009 succeeding Mulcahy, who remained as chairwoman until May 2010.
Burns serves on numerous professional and community boards, including American Express, Boston Scientific, FIRST, National Association of Manufacturers, University of Rochester, the MIT Corporation, the Rochester Business Alliance and the RUMP Group.
She will be the Commencement speaker at MIT’s 2011 Commencement, which is also the conclusion of MIT’s 150th anniversary celebration. She will also deliver the 2011 Commencement address at the University of Rochester.
Burns married Lloyd Bean, who also worked at Xerox, and she resides in Rochester, New York. She has a daughter Melissa (born c. 1992) and a stepson Malcolm (born c. 1989) who attends MIT