University of Pittsburgh

Lucky To Be Alive, She Never Gave Up

On a warm June night in 2007, Jennifer Burroughs waited outside her bus stop in Oakland. She was in a good mood. Her professor at the Katz Graduate School of Business had dismissed class early. In an instant, everything changed.

Out of nowhere, a car jumped up on the curb, hitting Burroughs and dragging her 50 feet down a Fifth Avenue sidewalk before coming to a stop. The violent accident left Burroughs in critical condition. She suffered from severe burns, a broken pelvis, ribs, and other bones, and a potentially fatal blood clot on the brain.

At the time, Burroughs was in her second semester in the Katz Part-time MBA program. She fought hard to recover from her injuries. Two years later, she re-enrolled in the MBA program, and kept attending classes at night. In April 2012, Burroughs finally earned her MBA degree, with a marketing concentration.

"It's been a really long time coming," Burroughs says. "The program is a three year program. It took me five, five-and-a-half years."

Burroughs, who prefers not to make a big deal of her graduation, overcame large obstacles. Immediately after the accident, she spent six months at four different hospitals. She had more than a dozen different surgeries.

Determined to not let the accident hold her back, Burroughs pushed on with work and school. She is a product marketing associate at PPG Industries. She works in the architectural coatings area, doing such things as updating product literature and product launches. Her efforts help PPG corporate connect with customers through company-owned stores, independent dealers, contractors, and architects.

"I came into the Katz MBA program with little prior business education," says Burroughs, who holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry and environmental sciences. "The MBA gave me the overall perspective of how businesses operate, so that now I'm looking at things in a different way."

Although Burroughs has been with PPG for eight years, she worked previously in a technical role. She transitioned into her product marketing associate position after progressing through the MBA program. In particular, Burroughs credits the student advising help that she received at Katz, which was essential considering her detour-filled path through the program.

"It did a great job of keeping me feel connected to the program," Burroughs says.

Reflecting on the accident, Burroughs can't help but wonder about the circumstances. On any other given night, she wouldn't have been at the bus stop at that time. Burroughs has no memory of the accident itself, even though she was conscious at the time rescue crews pulled her from underneath the car. The driver who struck her was fleeing police in a stolen vehicle, traveling the wrong way down the buses-only lane. He swerved to avoid a bus, which is how the car ended up on the curb where Burroughs was standing. Police later apprehended the driver and charged him for causing the dangerous crash, where he remains in jail today.

"It was really just a freak accident. The stolen car was driving in the bus lane. I wasn't looking for traffic that way. He was going 60-70 mph," Burroughs says.

Ugly as the accident was, Burroughs doesn't dwell on it. Afterward, she and her husband, Greg, had their first child, a boy, Eli, who is now 1 1/2 years old. Burroughs is now expecting a second child, this time a girl.

"I'm so thankful for the overall support from my husband and family," Burroughs says. "I'm fully recovered at this point.