Supporting the Libraries: Ursula Burns

Xerox CEO generously lends her support and expertise to the Libraries

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns (Photo by: Lonnie C. Major)

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns (Photo by: Lonnie C. Major)

Ursula Burns, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, has been a friend and supporter of the MIT Libraries since becoming chair of the Libraries’ Visiting Committee in 2011. In her role on the committee, she ensures that the committee provides valuable advice and insight about the Libraries to the MIT Corporation.

“Libraries today have to balance meeting current information needs with the challenge of anticipating and inventing a digital future. I can bring my experience as CEO of Xerox to the task of guiding the Visiting Committee in helping the MIT Libraries meet that challenge.”

Burns’ career with Xerox began with a summer internship in 1980. The mechanical engineer, with degrees from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU and Columbia University, rose through the ranks to become CEO of the company in 2009. The first African-American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, she’s consistently ranked on Forbes’ “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” list, and widely admired for her vision and tenacity.

Burns is also known as a national advocate for math and science education. In 2009 she was named by President Obama to help lead the White House national program on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and in 2010 she was appointed vice chair of Obama’s Export Council.

As an advocate for education, and a leader who has navigated momentous technological changes at Xerox, Burns has unique insight into the challenges that libraries face in a digital world. She also has a personal connection to MIT—her son Malcolm graduated from the Institute.

“No matter the discipline or department, I have found scholarships and library services to be the great equalizers in the MIT educational experience. There is no better way to touch the lives of so many gifted young innovators than to provide the financial resources to study at MIT and the information resources to be successful at MIT and beyond.”

In addition to lending her time and expertise to MIT, she has made monetary donations to the Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, and the Libraries’ Director’s Fund for Library Excellence. In 2011 Burns was MIT’s Commencement speaker.

“Set your sights on changing the world— in leaving this planet a little better than you found it,” she said to graduates. Burns lives by these words, and the Libraries are grateful for it.