Like so many other alumni of the Dr. Cornell A. Bell Business Opportunity Program (BOP), Law Burks’ involvement began with the program’s longtime director and namesake.
“Dr. Bell called me at home and said there was a program that would let me start school early and get a really good job,” Burks says. “That was my introduction to BOP.”
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Burks went on to earn a BS in Industrial Management (now Integrated Business and Engineering) from Purdue’s School of Management in 1989 and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 2000. He has also completed executive education courses at Harvard Business School.
“I've always enjoyed leadership and been a technical person, so the BSIM degree was a nice combination of engineering and the business side of things,” he says. “And I was lucky enough to have internships at General Motors and Procter and Gamble. Those experiences solidified for me that I wanted to focus on leading manufacturing businesses.”
Burks’ work experience includes five years of service as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and increasingly responsible manufacturing, business-to-business strategy, sales and marketing, and general management positions at Avon Products, Alcan Packaging, Cardinal Health, Illinois Tool Works, and Brand Safway.
Burks joined Banjo Corporation, a unit of IDEX Corporation, in 2020 and currently serves as president of Agriculture Technology. He has full profit-and-loss responsibility for growing Banjo while leading global sales, marketing, engineering, operations, and staff functions. “Leaders who have a technology background understand how to connect processes to people,” Burks says. “I learned that at Purdue.”
He credits BOP for much of his career success. “BOP was special because we all started together in the summer program and are still friends to this day,” he says. “I wouldn't have become the president of a global corporation without Dr. Bell’s mentorship, my BOP cohort, and all the alumni who came before me.”
He also enjoyed his time with the Society of Minority Managers and with the business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, where he eventually became an officer. “I went to school on Air Force ROTC scholarship, so I had great experiences with the cadet wing, too.”
Now, Burks is sharing his success with the program that made it possible. “Those to whom much is given have an obligation to give back, so I'm passionate about giving my time and personal resources to support BOP,” he says. “We also use corporate resources to sponsor students in the summer program, as well as to provide internships.”
Burks has also returned to campus to speak at the Executive Forum and in MGMT 243, Contemporary Thought of Minorities in Management, which is now taught by BOP’s current director, Darren Henry.
“I learned a lot in that course when I was an undergrad, so to have an opportunity to come back to the classroom and share my career story was very rewarding,” Burks says. “I encourage other alumni to reengage with BOP, give of their time and treasure, and hire students who’ve graduated from the program. Those relationships and connections back to the school are a great return-on-investment and can really make a difference.”