Visiting Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy



136 Sanford Building


In The News

“How the Changing News Industry is Affecting US Democracy.” 12/10/2015. Article link


Prior to coming to Duke as Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, Burness was the senior public affairs officer of three major research universities—vice president for university relations at Cornell University, associate chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois and deputy to the president for university relations at Stony Brook University.

Among his civic duties, Burness has been particularly active in K-12 education. He currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Durham Technical Community College. He was the founding chairman of the Board of Directors of the Durham Communities in Schools dropout prevention program and a director of the Durham Public Education network.

He also headed Duke’s nationally recognized Neighborhood Partnership with 12 neighborhoods near Duke’s campus and seven public schools that serve them. When he retired from his administrative post in 2008, Duke University’s Board of Trustees created the John F. Burness Endowment to support the programs of the Neighborhood Partnership.

Burness has been a director of the Tuition Plan Consortium/Private College 529 Plan, a director of MDC, Inc., a member of Durham’s Renaissance Group, and a past director of the United Way of Greater Durham, the Museum of Life and Science and Downtown Durham, Inc.

Burness was a Trustee of his alma mater, Franklin and Marshall College where he was president of the student government and on the Dean’s List. In 2010-11 he served as interim president of Franklin and Marshal. He has done graduate work at Stony Brook and Boston University, and pursued his doctoral study in higher education management at the University of Maryland.

In recognition of his long standing advocacy for the First Amendment, in 2008, he was designated an Honorary Life Member of the North Carolina Press Association, the first non journalist so honored in the nearly 140 years of the NCPA.

Burness and his wife, Anne D. Williams, have two children, Evan (’05) and Samuel (Law ’10).

Selected Grants