Mark Burgess MBA '85 funds full professorship at Fuqua

August 22, 2019

by Greg Jenkins

Mark Burgess MBA '85Mark Burgess MBA ’85 lives a fast-paced life. His role as CEO of Diversey, a producer of cleaning and hygiene products, is the latest stop in a successful career notable for its rapid tempo. Burgess even displays the same energy in his hobby. To decompress, he runs 25 miles per week at a pace of 8 minutes per mile or faster.

“I run pretty hard,” he says with sly understatement, adding with a laugh, “For a 60-year-old man, that's better than most.”

It’s no surprise that his sense of urgency carries over to philanthropy. Burgess and his wife, Lisa, were the first to establish a professorship through The Duke Endowment’s Fuqua Faculty Support Challenge. Their gift of $1.75 million was matched dollar for dollar, endowing the Mark Steven Burgess and Lisa Benson-Burgess Professorship in the Fuqua School of Business. The holder will focus on global business, leadership and/or operations. In July 2020, Ronnie Chatterji will become the first Mark Steven Burgess and Lisa Benson-Burgess Professor.

“I’m a huge believer that the core of a great institution stems from a strong faculty,” Burgess says. “The right professors can make an impact from teaching, motivating and inspiring students, their passion for excellence, and their research.”

In typical Burgess style, he paid his pledge right away so Fuqua could begin recruiting for the position. The goal is a more immediate impact. “I’m hoping the school will bring stability and real long-term quality to the role soon,” he says. “If we had done otherwise, we'd have to wait another two to five years to see that.”

Burgess’ passion for Fuqua goes back to his arrival there in 1983. He found his fellow students to be diverse, motivated, smart, and not at all cutthroat. The faculty members were well-rounded people who enjoyed teaching and interacting with the students. While both of those statements remain true, Burgess says that over the years, Fuqua has become good at adapting, innovating and taking calculated risks.

“That's always been part of the DNA there,” he says. “The key is how to promote critical thinking, how to drive team-based learning, how to really get people thinking about leadership. If you can weave those three aspects into the curriculum in a way that that is productive, it's a differentiator.”

Burgess is excited about keeping in even closer touch with Fuqua as a new member of its Board of Visitors. He thinks his experiences running companies owned by private equity firms could provide an interesting viewpoint. “It’s a slightly different twist and a slightly different perspective,” he says. “I'm hopeful I can add value in that role.”

He also looks forward to meeting the faculty member who will be hired as the Burgess Professor. For now, he’s just happy to have moved quickly enough to take advantage of a great giving opportunity. “That matching money made it a heck of a lot easier,” he laughs. “I’m a finance guy. So that made it even more appealing. What a great way to have your cake and eat it, too.”

This article originally appeared in the Giving to Duke 2019 impact report.