Commencement 2017


Honorary Degree Recipient

David NeelemanDavid Neeleman to Receive Honorary Degree at LIU Post Commencement

David Neeleman is that rarest of entrepreneurs, a man who has created and launched four successful, independent airlines, including the USA's JetBlue and Canada's WestJet. Brazil's Azul, just five years old, has already boarded tens of millions of customers.

Born in Brazil while his father was Reuter's Sao Paulo Bureau Chief, David has always had a deep love for the country. After his family moved to Utah while he was still a child, David would return to Brazil many times throughout his life. A dual citizen, David today relishes the dream before him to make flying cheaper and easier for Brazilians, giving access to air travel for many who have never experienced the opportunity.

Azul serves more than 100 destinations with an operating fleet of more than 130 aircraft comprising Brazilian-built Embraer E-190 and E-195 jets, and ATR-72s. Just as JetBlue in the US before it, Azul is the first airline in Latin America to offer LiveTV inflight TV programming via satellite.

Prior to Azul, David founded JetBlue Airways in New York and spent the last decade as Chief Executive Officer (1998 to 2007) and Chairman (2002 to 2008). An amazing success by any measure, JetBlue was an instant hit with travelers and was the first airline to earn $100 million annually within five years, thus becoming a "major" airline fastest. JetBlue has won countless awards and accolades including Top Low Cost Airline for Customer Satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates and Best Air Line by Consumer Reports. It won Conde Nast Traveler's Readers Choice Awards for Best U.S. Airline for seven consecutive years.

David's career began in 1984 when he co-founded a low-fare carrier called Morris Air with June Morris, the owner of Salt Lake City-based travel agency Morris Travel. As President of Morris Air, David implemented the industry's first electronic ticketing system and pioneered a home reservation system where calls are handled by reservationists working from their homes.

Following the sale of Morris Air and a short period with Southwest Airlines, David took the electronic ticketing system that he had initiated at Morris Air and developed it into Open Skies, the world's simplest airline reservation system. David sold Open Skies to Hewlett Packard in 1999. Also during this period, David acted as a consultant to WestJet Airlines, the successful Canadian low-fare start-up airline.

Having already enjoyed a unique career in aviation, David is excited to invest his lifetime's experience from Morris, Southwest, Open Skies, WestJet, and JetBlue into expanding the best airline Brazil has ever seen.

LIU is one of the nation’s largest private universities. Since its founding in 1926, LIU has provided high quality academic programs taught by world-class faculty.  LIU offers 500 accredited programs to more than 20,000 students and has a network of over 200,000 alumni that includes leaders in industries across the globe. Visit for more information.