Founder and Former CEO, SouthWest Airlines
Herb Kelleher is a Founder of SouthWest Airlines Co. and served as Executive Chairman from March 1978 to May 2008 and as President and CEO from September 1981 through June 2001.
Southwest commenced service with three airplanes in 1971 and in May of 2008, when Kelleher stepped down as Executive Chairman, Southwest operated a fleet of more than 527 airplanes and performed more than 3,400 flights per day. Kelleher’s Company has been profitable for 39 consecutive years; has never furloughed an Employee; and today carries the most originating domestic passengers of any U.S. airline. The Fall 2002 edition of Money magazine revealed that, during the 30-year period 1972-2002, Southwest produced the highest return to shareholders of any company included in the S&P 500 during that 30-year period: $10,000 invested in Southwest in 1972 was worth $10,200,000 in 2002 (an average increase of 25.99% per year).
For the 19th year in a row, FORTUNE magazine recognized Southwest Airlines in its 2013 annual survey of corporate reputations. Southwest Airlines is the only airline to make Fortune’s top 10 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. Kelleher himself has received numerous awards and honors, including being named by Fortune Magazine as one of the Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time; the Travel Industry Hall of Fame International; U. S. Chamber Business Leadership Hall of Fame; CEO of the Year and one of history’s top three CEOs, Chief Executive magazine; CEO of the Century, Texas Monthly magazine; National Sales and Marketing Hall of Fame; CEO of the Decade-Airline Industry; Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, Bower Award for Business Leadership, Franklin Institute; Tony Jannus Award; Wings Club Distinguished Achievement Award; San Diego Aerospace Hall of Fame; L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation, Aviation Week, Airline Business Award, Airline Business magazine; 2005 Global Services Leader Award; History Making Texan Award; the Business Halls of Fame of the State of Texas, the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and the City of Dallas; the Herbert D. Kelleher Servant Leader Scholarship, named in Herb’s honor by the Austin Business Travel Association; induction into the Texas Labor Management Hall of Fame; Transportation Research Forum President’s Award; induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame; induction into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine, Wright Brothers National Memorial; recipient of the Department of Homeland Security Distinguished Public Service Medal; an honorary lifetime member of the Transport Workers Union; recipient of full page USA Today “Thank You Herb!” ad from Southwest’s Pilots union; inducted into the AAF Tenth District Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame; the Joseph T. Nall Safety Award, NTSB Bar Association; the Murphy Award for Lifetime Achievement, University of North Texas; Ronald McDonald House Charities Award of Excellence; inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame, and, most recently, inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame and the Entrepreneurs For North Texas Ring of Entrepreneurs.
Kelleher graduated with honors from Wesleyan University, where he was an Olin Scholar and where his major was English and his minor Philosophy, and from NYU Law School, where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar.