News & Events

Boardroom Insights

Herb Kelleher, Executive Chairman of the Board, Southwest Airlines

September 12, 2008

Herb  Kelleher

Herb Kelleher is a Founder of Southwest Airlines Co. and currently serves as its Executive Chairman, a position he has held since March 1978. From September 1981 through June 2001, Kelleher also served as President and CEO of Southwest Airlines.
Southwest commenced service with three airplanes in 1971 and today operates a fleet of more than 520 airplanes performing over 3,400 flights per day. Kelleher’s Company has been profitable for 35 consecutive years and has never furloughed an Employee. 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 11 years in a row, FORTUNE magazine recognized Southwest Airlines in its annual survey of corporate reputations, and among all industries in 2007, FORTUNE has listed Southwest Airlines as number five among America’s Top Ten most admired corporations. Kelleher himself has received numerous awards and honors, including the 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; U. S. Master Entrepreneur, INC. magazine; CEO of the Decade-Airline Industry, Financial World magazine; Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy; Bower Award for Business Leadership, Franklin Institute; Smithsonian Aero Club Trophy; 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; and the Transportation Research Forum President’s award. 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.

<< Back to Boardroom Insights Listing