Burness to Retire

January 31, 2008
Burness: leaving a legacy of noteworthy contributions

Burness: leaving a legacy of noteworthy contributions. Chris Hildreth

John F. Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs and government relations since 1991 and the guiding force behind a nationally renowned program that helped strengthen Duke's ties with the local community, will retire June 30.

A member of Duke's senior leadership team under three Duke presidents, Burness, sixty-two, has guided the university's interactions with reporters, elected officials, community leaders, and others beyond the campus. He has been directly responsible for the university's offices of news and communications, community affairs, photography, and government relations, and has served as an adviser to trustees, deans, faculty members, and student leaders. He was a major voice in shaping Duke's response to the lacrosse incident.

Burness was also instrumental in establishing the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, through which the university has created partnerships with twelve neighborhoods near its campus and the eight schoolsthat serve them.

Before assuming the senior vice presidency at Duke, Burness was vice president for university relations at Cornell University. Previously, he held senior public-affairs positions at the University of Illinois and the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Widely known in the higher education community, he has testified before the U.S. Congress and state legislatures and advised numerous universities and research organizations. He also has held leadership positions with the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, among others. He is a trustee of Franklin & Marshall College, where he received his undergraduate degree, and serves on advisory boards for the Eisenhower Foundation Fellows and two major units at Duke—the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy and the Center for Child and Family Policy.