An Evening With Ursula Burns, was a one-on-one interview of Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox. Taped in front of a live audience at The New York Times Center and hosted by veteran PBS-TV news journalist Gwen Ifill, the program explored the life and career of Burns, the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company. A lifelong New Yorker, Burns told of her poor upbringing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, her mother’s efforts to raise three children on her own, her start at the Xerox Corporation as a young engineer and intern, and her meteoric rise through the corporate ranks.
Intermixed throughout the program are live appearances of Ursula Burns' mentors. Former Xerox CEO, Paul Allaire, told of how Burns initially spurned his offer to become his executive assistant. Former Xerox CEO, Anne Mulcahy told of how she and Ursula spearheaded a turnaround of Xerox during a financially precarious period for the company. They worked as true partners and made history when Ursula became the first female to succeed another female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Then, business and civic leader Vernon Jordan spoke of the importance of Burns’ journey and of how she overcame class, race and gender in order to reach the highest rank of Corporate America. Others provided their perspectives on her trailblazing career and her family life. They included: American Express CEO, Executive Leadership Council's Executive Director and Viacom Senior Vice President, Marva Smalls, as well as Burns' husband, daughter, son and sister, Lloyd Bean, Malcolm Bean, Melllisa Bean and Deborah Eastman.
Ursula Burns earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU and a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. When she joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern, the company was the leader in the global photocopying market. As she later assumed roles in product development and planning, the company was securing its leadership position in digital document technologies. From 1992 through 2000, Burns, at a pivotal point in the company’s history, led several business teams, including the company’s color business and office network printing business.
Burns was named chief executive officer in July 2009 and shortly after, made the largest acquisition in Xerox history, the $6.4 billion purchase of Affiliated Computer Services. The acquisition grew the company’s presence in the $500 billion business services market and extended the company’s reach into diverse areas of business process.On May 20, 2010, Burns became chairman of the company. Building on Xerox’s legacy of innovation, Burns supported workplaces, from small businesses to large global enterprises, in simplifying the way their work gets done so they can focus more on what matters most, their real business.
Burns serves as chairman of the Xerox board of directors. Additionally, she holds board positions with the American Express Company and Exxon Mobil Corporation. 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. She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving STEM curriculum in the U.S. education system. In March 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export Council.
Pioneering journalist Gwen Ifill was born in Queens, New York in 1955. After earning her B.A. degree in Communications from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1977, she was hired by The Boston Herald American in the midst of the city’s notorious busing crisis. After joining the Baltimore Evening Sun, she moved to covering national politics. In 1984, Ifill was hired by The Washington Post; and in 1991, she became the White House correspondent for The New York Times. In 1994, she was named the chief congressional correspondent for NBC, and in 1999, she became the moderator of PBS’ Washington Week in Review, as well as a correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In October of 2004, Ifill became the first African American woman to moderate a vice presidential debate. Her first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in 2009.
In 2011, Ifill served as the moderator for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. She is the recipient of more than a dozen honorary doctorates and several broadcasting excellence awards, including honors from the National Press Foundation, Ebony magazine, the Radio Television News Directors Association, and American Women in Radio and Television. Ifill also interviewed Diahann Carroll, Quincy Jones, Eartha Kitt and Smokey Robinson for The HistoryMakers annual PBS-TV An Evening With…series.
Ifill passed away in 2016.
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