An Evening with Ursula Burns

An Evening with Ursula Burns

Wed, 10/02/2013 - 10:00pm

Pictured: Ursula Burns

Credit: Xerox

An Evening With Ursula Burns, a one-on-one interview of Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, airs Wednesday, October 2 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV. Taped in front of a live audience at the New York Times Center and hosted by PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill, the program explores the life and career of Burns, the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company.

In addition to the program on Burns and in honor of the 75th anniversay of Xerography, WXXI will present two encore presentations of two documentaries on xerography. WXXI's 1998 production, Invented Here "The Paper Revolution," airs Wednesday, October 2 at 9 p.m. It shares the history of the invention of the Xerox 914 and of xerography by Chester Carlson. The second WXXI documentary, The Invention Nobody Wanted, produced in 1988, airs Thursday, October 3 at 8:30 p.m. and again Saturday, October 5 at 6 p.m. The film examines the inventions and sociological impact of xerography which was invented over 70 years ago. It interweaves historical and contemporary footage along with interviews in an exploration of the xerographic process, which has literally revolutionized the written word.

In An Evening With Ursula Burns Burns, a lifelong New Yorker, tells of her poor upbringing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, her mother Olga’s efforts to raise three children on her own, Burns’ 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, tells of how Burns initially spurned his offer to become his executive assistant. Former Xerox CEO, Anne Mulcahy tells of how she and Ursula spearheaded a turnaround of Xerox during a financially precarious period for Xerox. 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 speaks of the importance of Burns’ journey and how it symbolizes how she overcame class, race and gender in order to do so. Others provide their perspectives on her trailblazing career and her family life. They include: American Express CEO, Executive Leadership Counsel’s Executive Director and Viacom Senior Vice President Marva Smalls as well as her husband, daughter, son and sister: Lloyd Bean, Malcolm Bean, Melllisa Bean and Deborah Eastman.

Burns earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of New York University. In 1980, she started at Xerox as a summer intern, permanently joining a year later, in 1981, after completing her Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. During her thirty year career, Burns worked in a variety of roles that included product development, planning, senior vice president, and president. 

An Evening With Ursula Burns was produced by The HistoryMakers, a 501(c)(3) Illinois, not-for-profit corporation. The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive, is committed to the development of a unique online archive of 5,000 first-person narratives of African Americans, both well-known and unsung.