Missouri-headquartered global U.S. firm names new CEO

Leslie Duke has been named the new CEO of Burns & McDonnell, effective Jan. 1, 2024. In March, current Burns & McDonnell Chairman and CEO Ray Kowalik announced his retirement at the end of 2023, coming off a record-breaking year for the firm. Photo courtesy Burns & McDonnell.

Leslie Duke, a senior executive at Missouri-headquartered Burns & McDonnell, has been named the new CEO, effective Jan. 1, 2024. She will replace the current chairman and CEO, Ray Kowalik.

Kowalik will retire at the end of 2023, a record-breaking year for the firm. Operating from 70 offices worldwide, Burns & McDonnell is a family of companies bringing together an unmatched team of more than 13,500 engineers, construction and craft professionals, architects, planners, technologists, and scientists to design and build critical infrastructure.

Duke will be the eighth CEO in the firm’s 125-year history. Currently, Duke is the regional president and general manager in Houston, Texas. Over the past two decades, she has helped expand the firm’s customer base from one local Houston client when she joined the firm to more than 650 local, regional, and national clients in the industrial, refining, chemical, manufacturing, and power utility markets.

During her tenure, the business has delivered more than $5 billion in engineering, procurement, construction, environmental, and consulting services from the region.

Duke grew up in El Paso and joined Burns & McDonnell in 1999 as a structural engineer; and served in multiple leadership roles, including opening and growing several new offices. She became a senior vice-president in 2014 and was named the company’s first female president in 2016.

She played an integral role in launching the firm’s engineer-procure-construct (EPC) delivery method in the south-central region, and her efforts have led to the development and successful execution of many projects and programs. Under her leadership, Burns & McDonnell has been recognized by numerous industry and community organizations.

In 2016, Duke was named a Who’s Who honoree in energy by the Houston Business Journal. She is a member of the executive board of directors for the Greater Houston Partnership, serving as chair of the infrastructure committee from 2018 to 2022, and is a board member of the United Way of Greater Houston, where she was recognized as a top female leader in 2016.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in civil/structural engineering from Texas Tech University (TTU), where she was inducted as a distinguished engineer in 2018. She is an emeritus member of the dean’s council for the university’s School of Engineering. Duke is a registered professional engineer (PE) in Texas.

“Leslie’s strong track record of success and an extraordinary vision for the future makes her the right person to lead the firm forward,” says Kowalik. “Leslie is poised to lead our organization into a new era of technology, innovation, and growth, and I’m confident she will continue to build on our ownership legacy of caring for our clients, communities, and one another.”

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