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LIU Presents JetBlue Founder and Azul Brazilian Airlines CEO David Neeleman With Honorary Degree at LIU Post Commencement 2016


LIU Post

LIU Post honored David Neeleman, an entrepreneur who has created and launched four successful airlines, including JetBlue Airways, at its Commencement ceremony on May 6, 2016.

Neeleman is the founder and former Chairman and CEO of JetBlue Airways, the fifth-largest airline in the United States. Since its founding in 1998, JetBlue has grown to carry more than 32 million customers per year with an average of 900 daily flights, winning awards and honors from J.D. Power and Associates, Forbes magazine, Consumer Reports, Conde Nast Traveler, and the Human Rights Campaign, among others. Neeleman’s latest venture, Azul Brazilian Airlines, broke an industry record by registering more than 2 million passengers in its first 12 months, and has boarded tens of millions of customers in its first five years. Neeleman is also a founder of WestJet Airlines, the second-largest Canadian air carrier and Morris Air (bought by Southwest in 1993), where he initiated an electronic system that he later developed into Open Skies, the world’s simplest airline reservation system.

In addressing nearly 10,000 graduates, proud families, guests, and university officials, Neeleman emphasized the importance of personal fulfillment to professional success.

“You need to follow your passion,” Neeleman said. “If you’ve got two job offers – one’s paying more, and one is something that you really want to do – please take the one that you really want to do. Take the thing that really excites you, that gets you up in the morning, that gets you going in the morning. Don’t do what others want you to do. You need to find that one thing that you want to do.”

Neeleman is renowned for his commitment to his employees.  As CEO of JetBlue, he was known to help unload luggage and clean planes, and in 2002, he donated his entire salary to the JetBlue Crewmember Crisis Fund, established for employees who fall on hard times. In 2005, Neeleman was honored with the Tony Jannus Award for outstanding leadership in the commercial aviation industry. That commitment to others – employees and customers alike – influenced his parting words to the graduates.

“The more people that you influence,” Neeleman said, “the more lives that you touch, the more things that you do, and the more that you matter to people, the happier you’ll be, and the more successful you’ll be.”

Neeleman was presented for his honorary degree by the retired worldwide group president of the Estée Lauder Corporation, Lynne Greene, who received an honorary degree from LIU Post at the 2015 Commencement ceremony.

“David Neeleman embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that LIU fosters in its students,” said Dr. Kimberly R. Cline, president of LIU. “His continued success in a challenging industry speaks to his tenacity, business acumen, and commitment to creative thinking. LIU is proud to honor our graduates celebrate our exceptional honoree.”

For more information on the LIU Post Commencement ceremonies, visit

Posted 05/12/2016

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