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Chief Executive Leadership Institute Honors Dr. Albert Bourla of Pfizer and Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson with Legend in Leadership Award

Vaccine makers Dr. Albert Bourla of Pfizer and Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson will accept the Legend in Leadership Award from the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute during the virtual Yale CEO Summit on December 15. The combined Legends in Leadership award will be presented by Ken Frazier, chairman of Merck; Len Schleifer, chairman of Regeneron; and George Yancopoulos, president of Regeneron. 

Bourla has been at Pfizer his entire career, joining the company as a director of the animal health division in Greece in 1993 and assuming positions of ascending responsibility until taking the reins as chairman and CEO in 2019. Bourla was ranked as America’s top pharmaceutical CEO by Institutional Investor in 2020, in addition to serving on the executive committee of the Partnership for New York City; vice president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations; a director on multiple boards in addition to that of Pfizer and the Pfizer Foundation, including Catalyst and PhRMA; a trustee of the U.S. Council for International Business; and a member of the Business Roundtable and the Business Council. A first-generation immigrant and son of Holocaust survivors, Bourla is a proud American by choice yet remains actively committed to his Greek homeland through his active philanthropy.

Gorsky is one of just seven leaders who have served in the dual role of chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson & Johnson since the company went public in 1944. Gorsky began his career at Johnson & Johnson as a sales representative in 1998 after spending six years in the U.S. Army, finishing at the rank of Captain. He has spent his entire corporate career at the company with only a brief four-year interlude before his selection  as CEO in 2013. During his tenure, Johnson & Johnson has become the industry’s number-one investor in research and development. A longtime advocate of diversity and inclusion, Gorsky was named as one of the “100 Most Inspiring Leaders” by Pharma Voice . Gorsky is a longtime member of the Business Council and the Business Roundtable and sits on the board of directors of the Travis Manion Foundation as well as the boards of IBM and Apple.

Summit organizer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, commented: “It is truly an honor to recognize and celebrate two of America’s leading vaccine makers, Dr. Albert Bourla and Alex Gorsky, who have saved millions of lives around the world and who have made it possible for us to return to some degree of normalcy. These leaders are truly legends in their own time. Surveys show the general public has more faith in the leaders of U.S. pharmaceutical companies than government officials, and these two leaders are proof of why that faith is not misplaced.

“Over the last two years, they have led their companies in creating, testing, manufacturing, and distributing safe and effective vaccines that previously would have taken years to develop and approve in record time, which was only possible because these leaders had the foresight to invest significantly in R&D during their tenures, with approximately $100 billion invested during Gorsky’s 10 years as CEO and $28 billion expected to be invested by the end of Bourla's first three years, while striking the right strategic balance with savvy external partnerships and acquisitions.

“Since the pandemic began, these leaders have heroically navigated not only daunting scientific odds but political minefields, deftly keeping the focus on facts, science, and data despite political pressure and politicization of their life-saving work. Now they have achieved, in record time, an extensive suite of COVID medical solutions ranging from preventive vaccines to oral antiviral therapeutics. Both Pfizer and J&J have been trailblazers in distributing vaccines and antiviral pills to developing countries, serving not only as pillars of corporate social responsibility and advocates of social justice but also as pillars of the public health imperative of global vaccination. The spread of the Omicron variant and any additional variants will likely necessitate additional doses as the world learns to live with the virus in the months and years ahead, so it is reassuring to know that these heroic leaders will continue to be at the forefront of our response to the evolving pandemic.

“On a personal level, I know Alex Gorsky to embody and bring to life the legendary Johnson & Johnson credo, personally crafted in 1943 by former Chairman Robert Wood Johnson II. Gorsky’s understated style belies a strength of character and infallible integrity that make him a universally admired guardian of the iconic, globally renowned, 135-year-old Johnson & Johnson brand. Gorsky provided J&J’s vaccines at cost to help reach nations around the globe while also helping to lead the Business Roundtable on many social impact issues such as election security and immigration.

“I know Dr. Albert Bourla to be a visionary leader who combines sweeping global reach and foresight with immense technical know-how from his scientific training, an unrivaled mastery of science and public health with exceptional skills in ensuring speedy, safe execution. We will all have much to learn when his book, Moonshot, comes out in March with his leadership lessons from the pandemic.”

The Legend in Leadership Award was created 25 years ago to honor current and former CEOs who serve as living legends to inspire chief executives across industries, sectors, and nations. Past recipients include: Lynn Good, CEO, Duke Energy; Lisa Su, CEO, AMD; Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the NIAID; Doug McMillon, CEO, Walmart; Arne Sorenson, CEO, Marriott International; Andrew J. Young, mayor (1982-1990), Atlanta, Georgia, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (1977-1979); Brian C. Cornell, chair and CEO, Target Corporation;  Ivan G. Seidenberg, chair and CEO, Verizon Communications; Ken Frazier, chair and CEO, Merck & Co.;  Randall L. Stephenson, chairman and CEO, AT&T; Colin Powell, retired four-star U.S. Army General, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–93), and 65th U.S. Secretary of State (2001–05); Virginia M. (Ginni) Rometty, chairman, president, and CEO, IBM Corporation; Janet Yellen, United States Secretary of the Treasury; Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever PLC; Mary T. Barra, chairman and chief executive of General Motors Company; Brian Moynihan, chairman and CEO, Bank of America; David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman, The Carlyle Group; Leonard S. Schleifer, president and CEO, and George D. Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; Brian Roberts, CEO, Comcast; Marillyn Hewson, CEO, Lockheed Martin; Jamie Dimon, CEO, JPMorgan Chase; and Ken Chenault, chair and CEO, American Express. A full list of recipients can be found online.

The Summit theme is “2022’s Promise for Business: Achieving Social Harmony with Health and Prosperity.: The event promises to be a lively, candid discussion with distinguished global corporate leaders from across industries.

Among those top leaders participating are the CEOs and leaders from: Brooklyn Nets/BSE Global, Honeywell International, Freeport-McMoRan, AMC Entertainment, Bain Capital, The Goldman Sachs Group, Honeywell International, Dell Technologies, Atlas Merchant Capital, Edelman, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer, eBay, Starbucks Corporation, Steelcase, Mattel, IBM Corporation, Stanley Black & Decker, HP Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Union Square Hospitality Group, Snap-on Incorporated, Unilever, The Clorox Company, ADP, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Dunkin’ Brands, and the National Football League.

A full list of CEO Summit participants can be found online

Conference partners include AccuWeather, Deloitte, Evercore, Gladstone Place Partners, IBM, Korn Ferry, Stagwell, and UPS.