Leslie Duke Will Be Next CEO of Burns & McDonnell

Burns & McDonnell announced this afternoon that Leslie Duke will succeed Ray Kowalik as chief executive of Kansas City ‘s biggest design/construction firm, effective Jan. 1. Kowalik, who also holds the title of chairman, announced last month that he would be retiring.

Duke is currently the regional president and general manager for the firm’s office in Houston. Over the past two decades, that office has delivered more than $5 billion in engineering, procurement, construction, environmental and consulting services. In her time there, she has helped expand the firm’s customer base from one local Houston client to more than than 650 local, regional and national clients, the company said. 

“Leslie’s strong track record of success and an extraordinary vision for the future makes her the right person to lead the firm forward,” Kowalik said in the announcement release. “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.” 

Raised in El Paso, Duke came on board as structural engineer in 1999, then senior vice president in 2014. In 2016, she was named the company’s first female president in 2016.  

“I built my career on my ability to create and drive strategies aligned with the needs of clients, markets and our employee-owners,” Duke said. “I’m truly honored and humbled to take on this new role. Burns & McDonnell has always been a trailblazer in the industry, and I am excited to contribute my experience to help us further our collective success.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in civil/structural engineering from Texas Tech University, and is an emeritus member of the Dean’s Council for the university’s School of Engineering.