The Ford Foundation announced today the election of Ursula Burns to serve as a member of its Board of Trustees.
Ms. Burns is the chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox and a respected international business leader. She began her career at Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineer intern, and through the years assumed many positions that led her to become the first African American woman to head a Fortune 500 company.
Consistently named one of the most influential women in the world, Ms. Burns leads an organization of more than 140,000 people, who serve clients in more than 180 countries. After being named CEO, she made the largest acquisition in company history, helping to catapult Xerox’s presence and extend its reach in the fast-growing global services market.
“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.’ In Ursula, we have found someone who possesses both,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “She brings a sophisticated understanding of the corporate sector and a lived experience characterized by economic struggle, hard work, grit, and remarkable achievement.”
In March 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Ms. Burns as vice chair of the President’s Export Council. In addition to serving on the Xerox board, she is a board director at the American Express Company and Exxon Mobil Corporation.
Ms. Burns also provides leadership counsel to community, educational, and nonprofit organizations, including FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the US Olympic Committee, among others. She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the US’s education system in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and vice chairwoman of the executive committee at the Business Roundtable and a member of the Business Council.
“The Ford Foundation has a long tradition of challenging the status quo in the pursuit of greater inclusion, equality, and opportunity,” said Ms. Burns. “Serving on this board is deeply personal to me. I know well the many injustices this institution seeks to address. Throughout my professional career, I have tried to advance the ideals embodied by the Ford Foundation, and it’s a tremendous honor to contribute to this life-changing work as a member of the board.”
A native New Yorker, she was raised by a single mother in the city’s public housing. Ms. 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.
Ford Foundation trustees are elected by the full board and serve six-year terms. Trustees set broad policy relating to grantmaking, geographic focus, investments, governance, and professional standards, and they oversee internal and independent audits. The foundation’s trustees hail from four continents and have extensive experience in the worlds of higher education, business and finance, technology, law, government, and the nonprofit sector.