John C. Burris, 57, former Sourcefire CEO (Nasdaq: FIRE) passed away on Friday, October 19, 2012, at his Annapolis, Md., home surrounded by family. He had fought a courageous battle with colon cancer but in the end, it proved too strong for even John’s determination.
Born in Parkersburg, W.Va., on January 4, 1955, John grew up in New Haven, W.Va., a rural setting with no stoplights. Always a go-getter, John worked in the local hardware store during high school and college and this experience enabled him to be able to fix anything at all! He graduated as Salutatorian of Wahama High School in 1973. In addition to playing various Varsity level sports, he was a drummer in the high school band with such talent that he was selected as a member of the All State Band three years running and was the top drummer in the state of West Virginia. His ability earned him a full scholarship to Duke University in the music program. Instead he chose Marshall University’s academic scholarship, as he knew he wanted to study business and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1977.
Each year the telephone company selected one graduate from the state for its management trainee program and John was the chosen one in his graduating class. John’s tenure with AT&T and Lucent Technologies would take him all over the world. He began with assignments in the Mid-Atlantic region living in West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In 1987 he completed his Executive MBA through American University while working full-time.
In 1991 he became the Managing Director/VP-Europe for the AT&T Business Products joint venture in London, England. During his tenure the revenue grew over 300 percent and the operation reached profitability for the first time in five years. His success in this part of the world led to him being sent to Sydney, Australia and then Hong Kong as the Managing Director/VP for Asia Pacific. There he achieved 135 percent of target while re-engineering the entire infrastructure of the organization. In 1994 he returned to the United States as the VP and General Manager of the Gulf States Area and settled in Fort Lauderdale, FL. In 1998 he was chosen for Leaders Council, the highest honor in Lucent Technologies.
John began his almost 10 year run at Citrix Systems (Nasdaq: CTXS) in 1999 as Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales and Services. He was a key contributor to the Company’s growth during which time annual revenues increased from $400 million to $1.4 billion. He led the global Citrix sales, services and field marketing organizations comprising 2500 plus sales and services professionals and 5000 channel and distribution partners. He was extremely proud of his 30 plus quarters without a revenue miss. Mark Templeton, CEO Citrix Systems, says: “John left an indelible mark on Citrix, and the many people he touched in such caring, authentic and professional ways. For 10 years, he successfully led our global sales and services teams, was a vital member of the Executive Leadership Team, and someone whose wisdom was always in demand. When John didn’t have his own, he would share his mother’s. I remember during an intense planning meeting he said “my mom gets this. She says that success is always a work in process.” You could always count on him for the truth, optimism, and a lot of fun.”
In 2008 John had the opportunity to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a public company CEO. John was already a member of the Board of Directors of Sourcefire, Inc., the creator of Snort® and a global leader in intelligent cybersecurity solutions. John’s peers sought him out to take the CEO position as they identified in him all of the talents required to take the company to new levels. During more than four years as CEO, John led the transformation of Columbia, MD based Sourcefire from a single-product company with a market capitalization of under $150 million to a multi-product company with a market capitalization well over $1.2 billion. Revenues grew from $75 million in 2008 to a path of over $200 million in 2012 and employee growth went from 280 in 2008 to 575 today.
Under John’s direction, the company has been recognized by Forbes as one of the 25 fastest growing technology companies in the U.S. for the past three years, rising to number 11 and the top security company on the 2012 list; Gartner recognized the company as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Network IPS Appliances, placing it as the most visionary company in the market in 2012; and in rigorous, independent testing NSS Labs identified Sourcefire FirePOWER® appliances for Next-Generation IPS and Next-Generation Firewall as industry-leading in security effectiveness, performance, and total cost of ownership.
With his vision and management expertise, John fostered a culture that inspired employees to collaborate and excel. He established the Firemen principles for a cultural blueprint of the company and Fireside Chats to encourage internal communications, to name a few key programs. His focus on strength of culture has translated into a company that customers view as a trusted partner and a company associated with security innovation, intelligence and agile end-to-end protection.
John became a board member of QlikTech (Nasdaq: QLIK) in 2010 and a valuable contributor to their success.
John was a life-long member of his hometown church, New Haven United Methodist. In fact, he is currently funding a renovation of the church and when complete, his family and church members will be blessed with seeing his generosity on a daily basis.
All those who knew John will miss his combined gift of wisdom, fairness and compassion that he so effortlessly coupled with humor and a leadership style that inspired all around to perform at their highest levels. Always down to earth and comfortable with his roots, he made a significant impact on many people’s lives. We ask that they remember his zeal for life – and cars, boats, watches, logo wear (Marshall, Citrix, Sourcefire) Tommy Bahama shirts, and of course his ever perfect hair!
Survivors include his wife, best friend and soul mate, Ann; daughter Megan Lynn (Timothy) Boucher; sons Jason Curtis Burris and Luke Adam Burris; grandson, Bradley John Boucher; parents, Pete and Betty Burris; sister, Rebecca (Robert) Chenoweth; brother, Joe Burris; brothers in law, John (Nathalie) Thayer, MD’s and James (Anna) Thayer. Nieces and nephews include Maggie Chenoweth, Olivia Bonneville, James and Julia Thayer, Wyatt, Grace and Virginia Thayer. He is preceded in death by his in-laws, James and Eleonor Thayer and stepdaughter, Jennifer Ann Long.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, October 26, 2012, at First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, 171 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, MD, 21401, (410) 267-8705, www.annapolis-presbyterian.com. A reception from noon to 3 p.m. to celebrate John’s life will immediately follow on the yacht “Catherine Marie” moored at City Dock, Annapolis, www.yachtchartersonthebay.com/the-yachts/catherine-marie. Inurnment will be at Graham Station Cemetery, New Haven, W.Va., at a future date.
The family asks that flowers be sent to the church or in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the New Haven United Methodist Church in memory of John, 511 5th Street, New Haven, WV, 25265. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.johnmtaylorfuneralhome.com.