Brian P. Burns, attorney, entrepreneur and philanthropist, was honored as the 2012 American Free Enterprise Medalist on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 at Palm Beach Atlantic University's Greene Complex for Sports & Recreation, 1100 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach.
Former chairman and chief executive officer of Boothe Financial Corp. and of Robert Half International, Inc., Burns has had a distinguished career as a practicing attorney. His broad range of business experience has led to his election or appointment to the boards of major corporations, as well as professional, governmental and charitable organizations across the United States as well as in Ireland. In 2001 Burns was named as one of the Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century by Irish America Magazine. In 1996, Burns also was named as one of American Top 100 Art Collectors by Art and Antiques Magazine.
A graduate of Harvard Law School at age 23 and the son of the first General Counsel to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Burns was a partner at several leading law firms in San Francisco, including Burns & Whitehead; Cullinan, Burns & Helmer; and Cullinan, Hancock, Rothert & Burns. He began his career as an associate at Webster, Sheffield, Fleischmann, Hitchcock & Brookfield in New York City in 1960. Prior to that, he was special assistant to the regional administrator of the S.E.C.’s New York Regional Office.
His contributions to art and culture have included serving as trustee for the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, on the board of trustees of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach and as founding chairman of the Palm Beach Pops Symphony Orchestra. A 10-year director of the Palm Beach Civic Association, he and his wife, Eileen, were co-founders of the Palm Beach Police Foundation. Mr. and Mrs. Burns also funded the Palm Beach Police Teen Academy for more than 10 years.
Burns also is the founder and principal benefactor of the Honorable John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College, which is named after his father. He has served as director and lifetime trustee of the American Ireland Fund in Boston, Mass., and he is a gold medal award winner of The Eire Society of Boston. Burns served on the Board of Trustees of Holy Cross College from 1978 to 1989 and on the Boston College Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2003. He also served on the Ireland-American Economic Advisory Board to the Prime Minister of Ireland, and during 1992–1998 Burns served as vice chairman of the Irish American Fulbright Commission in Dublin. Burns has served on the board of trustees of the Trinity College Foundation in Dublin since 1997.
Burns was a director of the Kellogg Company of Battle Creek, Mich., from 1979 to 1989 and served as the first chairman of its Finance Committee. He also served as a director and chairman of the Executive Committee of The Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New York, Inc. Among his other important directorships were Brinks, Inc. in Rolling Meadows, Ill.; Pacific Holding Corporation of Beverly Hills, Calif., of which he served as Chairman of the Mergers & Acquisitions Committee; Kendall-Jackson Winery Inc. in Santa Rosa, Calif.; the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.; and The California Jockey Club in San Francisco, Calif. In his earlier years, 1967-1976, Burns served as a Director and Chairman of the Executive and Finance Committees of the United States Bank Note Corporation of New York City.
He is chairman of The Burns Foundation in San Francisco and served as a trustee of the Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Family Trusts of 1926 and 1936 in New York City from 1998 to 2010. He also has served as a member of the board of directors of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises Inc. in New York.
He and his wife, Eileen, have eight children and 15 grandchildren. In recognition of her extensive community service, Mrs. Burns received the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic in 2011.
2012 Companion Medalists: The companion medalists for American Free Enterprise Day 2012 were Connie Cooper Shepherd and Donald K. DeWoody, Jr. Read more here.
Read about our past recipients, including: H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr., president of Huizenga Holdings, Inc., 2011; Edward M. Kobel, president and chief operating officer of DeBartolo Development, LLC, 2010; John D. MacArthur, insurance and real estate entrepreneur, 2009; John M. Gregory, managing partner of SJ Strategic Investments, LLC, 2008; Karl H. Watson, CEMEX, 2007; Stuart W. Epperson, Salem Communications Corporation, 2004; Sam Moore, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2003; Joseph R. Gregory, Kingsway L.L.C., 2002; Lester J. Woerner, Woerner Holdings, Inc, 2001; and Rich DeVos, 2000, Orlando Magic.