Kohrt Distinguished Alumni Award
Brigadier General James “Jay” Burks ’89 retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2018 and is believed to be the first Furman graduate promoted to general officer rank in the Air Force. His military career culminated as director, manpower, personnel, and resources, and Medical Service Corps chief, where he advised the Air Force surgeon general on healthcare and readiness strategy, a $6.2 billion annual budget supporting 75 Air Force medical facilities, and career field management for 1,800 officers. Over 26 ½ years, Burks served in command and staff assignments, was an Air Force intern and RAND Corporation fellow, and deployed to Afghanistan. He earned a B.A. in business administration from Furman (1989), an M.B.A. from the University of South Carolina (1991), and an M.A. in organizational management from George Washington University (1999). He is board certified as a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and served on its local boards, national committees, Council of Regents and Board of Governors. He has also served on local and national boards of civic and healthcare organizations. Burks married his Furman sweetheart, Valarie ’89 (Scheetz). As an Air Force spouse, Valarie led and served on base and community committees and boards at every assignment. The Burks are proud “pet parents” to two beagles, Mr. Cody and Miss Jersey. They enthusiastically support charitable work for animals, education, health, veterans and military families. For Furman, the Burks proudly established the Brigadier General (USAF-ret) James J. and Mrs. Valarie S. Burks endowed scholarship fund.