Jim & Didi Burke
The James E. and Diane W. Burke Foundation was established in Princeton, NJ in 1989 by the late Jim Burke and his wife Diane Burke, also known as Didi. Jim Burke, who spent 37 years with Johnson & Johnson and served as Chairman and CEO for the last 13 years of his tenure, was championed as a visionary leader.
As CEO, Jim’s strong values and leadership ability were put to the test when seven people died in Chicago from ingesting cyanide-contaminated Tylenol. Healthcare product experts declared the Tylenol brand dead, but even under such trying circumstances Jim’s ethical leadership guided Johnson & Johnson’s path forward. He recalled 31 million Tylenol bottles, subsequently losing millions of dollars in earnings. Jim also commenced a monumental campaign to properly inform the public about what had occurred and to express his grief. When a woman died in 1986 due to cyanide-contaminated Tylenol, Jim immediately stopped the production of the standard capsules and pushed for new tamper-proof packaging. The recall itself was estimated to cost the company more than $200 million, but Jim opted to protect the public at every turn. Following his retirement, he went on to become the Chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. In 2000, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his extraordinary corporate and civic leadership.
Didi Burke, an art history major and painter, found her calling in the arts. She has dedicated much of her life to the field, including serving as a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Princeton University Art Museum, and has supported arts institutions that have made a difference in the lives of young people and adults around the country.
Throughout their lives together, Jim and Didi shared a passion for improving the health and well-being of children, and from the beginning of their philanthropic journey chose to invest in tangible ways to help children thrive. Jim saw a thread between the work he did at Johnson & Johnson—developing products that enhanced the relationship between parents and babies—and investing in initiatives that strengthened families and improved children’s chances for success. Didi’s devotion to the arts also lent an arts-focus to their giving, with the knowledge that providing arts education to under-resourced youth could open windows of opportunity for their personal growth, expression, and engagement with the world around them.
With Jim and Didi’s joint interests and commitment as its guide, for over 25 years the Foundation has supported programming in various fields including the arts, health care, education, and community revitalization, with an emphasis on creating opportunities for underserved families and children.