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P&Q Hall of Fame Profile: Edward J. ‘EJ’ Burke III

By |  March 25, 2022

Editor’s note: Four men will be enshrined in the Pit & Quarry Hall of Fame during the March 28 induction ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee. Edward J. “EJ” Burke, a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame class, is the subject of this profile.


Burke

Burke

EJ Burke admittedly started in aggregates with zero knowledge about the industry.

His entrance was not a planned one, but it nonetheless led to a fruitful and ongoing 54-year career in explosives, coal, metal and, of course, aggregates.

Burke’s father died suddenly while he was in college, leaving him to take care of his widowed mother. Shortly before that life-altering event, Burke passed an OCS (Officer Candidate School) exam for the Marines and planned to train in Quantico, Virginia. Given the circumstances, however, Burke knew he needed a job right away.

In 1968, Burke applied for a job that ultimately changed his life. He interviewed with DuPont for a technical sales trainee position and, when asked why he wanted the job, answered bluntly.

“I said: ‘Because you can pay me big bucks and I need it,’” Burke says.

That honesty paid off, and Burke’s career was off and running from there.

“I never would have worked at DuPont if I hadn’t lost my father,” he says. “I had to take care of my mother. It’s a miracle I was hired by DuPont. They were hiring chemical engineers [and] Ph.D. scientists. They weren’t hiring guys with a political science degree.”

Twenty-eight years at DuPont left a lasting impression on Burke.

“So much of my personal and professional success in life, I trace back to DuPont,” he says. “The way I was trained, the people I worked with [and] for – it was a privilege.”

EJ Burke made a name for himself in the aggregate and blasting industry during his time with both DuPont and Dyno Nobel. Photo: Dyno Nobel

EJ Burke made a name for himself in the aggregate and blasting industry during his time with both DuPont and Dyno Nobel. Photo: Dyno Nobel

Dedicated to DuPont

Although acclimating to a new industry was a challenge, Burke had role models who guided him in his early years.

“I picked up very quickly that there were wonderful people in the industry,” he says. “I watched them, I saw how they handle their business, how professional they were and they were role models for me.”

Ward Nye, now chairman and CEO of Martin Marietta, is one of those role models. The two friends have a tremendous level of respect for one another.

“EJ Burke is iconic in the world of mining and explosives,” Nye says. “The aggregates business is blessed that he chose explosives. EJ effortlessly models what it means to work safely, how to treat customers, colleagues and others; and how to prioritize competing and complex aspects of life and work.”

After training in Georgia, Burke took his first official DuPont assignment in Texas. Living in San Antonio, he covered an area ranging from El Paso to Houston.

A 22-year old Burke loved every minute of it.

“It was a territory designed for a bachelor, which I was at the time,” he says. “I would plan my trips to be gone for two weeks. I was with customers, golfing with them, having dinner with their families and it was a great, great experience.”

During his first four years there, Burke learned about the stone business, pipeline work, infrastructure construction and seismic exploration for gas and oil.

“I was blessed to really see so much of the industry there,” Burke says.

His next assignment kept him in the Lone Star State but shifted him to Dallas. There, he was responsible for DuPont’s construction business in the company’s Southwest headquarters.

It was during this stretch that Burke met his wife Barbara. They married in 1974.

“I would become immersed in my job, whatever it was,” Burke says. “Barbara would always find a home, build the relationships, find the church, school, doctors. We’ve been married for 47 years, 48 in November, and none of this would be possible without Barbara.”

Shortly after getting married, Burke was transferred to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he served DuPont as a financial analyst. He also worked with explosives product managers.

“They all had MBAs and a lot of great research background, but they really didn’t know the customer,” Burke says. “They brought me in to represent the customer to the business, and I learned a little bit of finance along the way.”

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor for Pit & Quarry and Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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