WILMINGTON — The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce recognized a longtime business leader with a surprise announcement Wednesday during its 23rd annual Marvin S. Gilman Superstars in Business awards luncheon at the Hotel Du Pont.
The entity bestowed the Gilman Bowl to Milford’s John M. Burris, former president of the state chamber.
His wife, Cathy Burris, and his family stood by his side, joining other chamber employees who served during his presidency.
“Our family and those on the selection committee are excited to have chosen and now share that John is this year’s recipient in honor of my grandfather, Marvin S. Gilman,” said Brett Gilman Smith.
The award was established as a tribute to small-business leadership and named after a champion of Delaware small-business owners.
The identity of the recipient of the Gilman Bowl was confidential until its presentation at the ceremony Wednesday.
A Milford native, Mr. Burris founded Burris Bandag and Kent/Sussex Tire Service Inc. in 1971 and served as their president. He also worked in the family-owned business, Burris Logistics, as vice president from 1971-2021. He currently serves as vice chairman of MediGuide International and president and CEO of The Burris Firm.
Mr. Burris was elected to the Delaware House of Representatives in 1976 and served three terms, including in the roles of minority leader in 1978 and majority leader from 1979-82.
He was the first Republican in 20 years elected to represent the 36th District.
Some notable accomplishments during his tenure included leading the effort to save the Chrysler plant and retain 3,500 jobs in Delaware, as well as helping to secure the passage of the Financial Center Development Act, which brought the state more than 45,000 financial jobs.
In addition to serving in the General Assembly, Mr. Burris ran as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 1984 against now-President Joe Biden and for governor of Delaware in 2000.
“Many of the programs and initiatives we manage today — programs that our members believe in and are impactful to Delaware — trace their origins to John’s tenure as president of the state chamber,” said Michael Quaranta, current president of DSCC. “I would be fortunate, as would any leader, to have that degree of success one day. His is a legacy of accomplishment.”
Mr. Burris joined DSCC as its president in 1990.
“Ten of the best years of my life were at the state chamber. This tribute means a lot to me, and it’s full circle,” said Mr. Burris.
Many DSCC programs that exist today were created during his tenure, including Delaware Principal for a Day and Superstars in Education. He also was involved with opening a tourism office in Bridgeville, creating the Delaware Public Policy Institute and reengaging the Delaware Manufacturing Association, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers.
“It’s people like Mike Uffner, Mark Stellini, Bill Topkis and others who kept telling me that the state chamber isn’t just a chamber to large businesses, (but that) it was small business who was the rock bed of the organization,” said Mr. Burris upon accepting the award.