In honor of Women’s History Month, Ilissa Miller, Founder and CEO of iMiller Public Relations (iMPR), and Jezzibell Gilmore, would like to recognize Betty Joe Burke, former Executive Director for NANOG – the North American Network Operators’ Group.

Miller reflects on the profound impact Betty had on her life and career:

If you don’t know of Betty – who passed away on November 7, 2022 – she was a firecracker and an industry starter enabling the accelerated development of the internet across the U.S. 

Betty spent her professional career as an IT trailblazer. She worked to “bring people together” to develop the Internet first through her work at the University of Michigan beginning in 1974, later through Merit Network, Inc. and as the Executive Director of the North American Network Operators’ Group (NANOG, Inc.). Her professional endeavors included management of a consortium of engineering professionals working to re-engineer and manage the first national, high speed internet backbone (NSFNET). She oversaw the build out of the State of Michigan’s largest technology center and coordinated IT conferences composed of an international membership community working to invent the Internet of tomorrow. She retired from the University of Michigan after 36 years of service in 2010. She retired as the Executive Director of NANOG, Inc. in 2018.

I had the honor and pleasure of working side-by-side with Betty from 2012-2018 while overseeing sponsorship sales for NANOG. She was a mentor, a friend, a colleague and a boss – she embodied everything I always thought a leader should be. I miss her dearly.

Please join me in honoring Betty Joe Burke during this March 2024 in honor of Women’s History Month!

Gilmore emphasizes the incredible spirit that Betty embodied, being a driving force in the industry, while still empowering and motivating others. Gilmore recalls Betty’s soft tone of voice, calming smile, and unwavering determination that has since left a lasting impact on the internet industry:

Betty was an incredible spirit who was deeply loved and respected by many in the Internet networking industry. Betty Joe Burke is an unsung hero, and one deserves much more admiration and praise for what she had done through out her career.

While our lives are our own, often the path we take is shaped by people and events in our lives. Betty is one of those quiet yet powerful leaders, whose influence shaped the Internet networking industry, and the paths of many that built the industry. Her soft tone of voice, calming smile no matter the situation, and unwavering determination not only paved the way for our generation of women leaders, but generations of talent and mindset of the internet industry. 

Betty was kind, passionate, persistent, creative, intelligent, and hard working. Although she took charge, she did not like to be the center of attention. She demonstrated daily, success comes from relentless pursuit of your goals, not knowing how to do everything. One of the phrases that she used often, that I now use myself all the time is “We’ll figure it out”. Because she always figured out a way to make it happen.

Betty was talented in many aspects, but above all else, she took the time to build up people around her. She not only encouraged me to take risks that I was too afraid to take, but she was by my side to support and guide me along my entire NANOG leadership journey. I didn’t just learn how to be a better communicator, but how to introspect and elevate my point of view as a leader. 

Betty was courageous. Courage is actions taken while acknowledging our fear, and in spite of that fear. Betty taught me not to fall victim of fear, especially fear of failure – don’t allow fear of failure keep you from taking actions. Our actions define who we are, not our thoughts or intentions. I am a better version of me because of the actions I had taken at Betty’s urging. 

Betty is deeply missed by her colleagues, family, and friends who cherish her memory and the enduring impact she made on the industry, ensuring that her influence will continue to resonate for generations to come.

This Women’s History Month, please join us in honoring Betty Joe Burke by reciting the poem she chose for her celebration of life: