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News Release

Duane Burnham to receive University of Minnesota Outstanding Achievement Award

Contacts: Dawn Skelly, Carlson School of Management, (612) 624-8770,
Ryan Mathre, University News Service, (612) 625-0552,

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (04/23/2009) —The University of Minnesota will present Duane Burnham, former CEO and chairman of Abbott Laboratories, with an Outstanding Achievement Award 6-8 p.m. on Monday, Apr. 27, at the University of Minnesota Eastcliff residence, 176 N. Mississippi River Blvd., St. Paul. The Outstanding Achievement award is conferred on graduates or former students of the University of Minnesota who have attained unusual distinction in their profession or in public service and who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and leadership.

“Duane is motivated by challenge and inclusion—he doesn’t just want to oversee activities or advise. He wants to get in the fray and find solutions, and he is most happy when involved, stimulated and challenged to contribute,” said James Campbell, former interim co-dean at the Carlson School of Management and former CEO of Wells Fargo Minnesota.

Burnham’s career started at Fleischman Malting Corp. and as a vice president at Maremont Corp. After earning an MBA from the University of Minnesota, he returned to the business world at Bunker-Ramo Corp. in 1975. He led the company as president and CEO for seven years—work that prepared him for a swift rise and exceptional challenges at Abbott Laboratories.

Burnham began at Abbott Laboratories as senior vice president of finance and CFO in 1982. Within three years at Abbott he was elected to the board of directors and promoted to executive vice president, then vice chairman in 1987 and CEO and chairman in 1990.

For nearly a decade, he led Abbott through turbulent times in the healthcare industry, and the company not only survived, but thrived. During his tenure, Abbott’s employee base grew from 43,000 to 56,000, its shareholders saw returns of more than 20 percent annually, and he was credited with the company’s record-breaking sales performance from 1991 to 1993. He retired from Abbott Laboratories in 1993 after 17 years of dedicated leadership.

Burnham’s drive has been motivated as much by community commitment as professional success. In addition to leading Abbott’s development of critical treatments for a range of serious health problems, he became personally invested in Chicago-area economic, educational and cultural institutions. He served on the boards of Northwestern University, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Museum of Science and Industry, Evanston Hospital and the Healthcare Leadership Council. As a member of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s visit to the city in 1999.

“Duane is both a world-class business leader and a humble Minnesota son,” said Campbell. “He has worked hard for his success and then shared of both that success and the talent and wisdom that helped him achieve it. I am sure Chicago is pleased to call him its own, but I’m pleased to say that he started here.”

Tags: Carlson School of Management

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