David Neeleman

David Neeleman is founder, chairman & CEO Jetblue Airways, the only airline based out of New York State.

jetBlue’s CEO and Founder Lands at York College

Sadef Ali Kully News Editor for Pandora's Box

David Neeleman, founder and CEO of Jetblue Airways, was the featured speaker at York College’s most recent Executive Leadership Breakfast. The event, held in the faculty dining room, focused on the CUNY Aviation Institute and its burgeoning relationship with aviation-related companies in the airport community.

York College’s President Dr. Marcia V. Keizs, emceed the December 1st event and began by introducing Cruz Russell, Planning Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a member of the York College Foundation Board.

 “The aviation industry is growing -- it is the driving force for people,” said Russell during his introduction of Neeleman. “It’s creating opportunities for everyone.”

Among those expected to benefit from such job creations are York College students, according to Neeleman.

“Fifty percent of the domestic traffic is at JFK Airport and JetBlue is the largest airline at JFK with 160 flights per day,” said Neeleman of his six year-old company. “What does this mean to Queens? There are 2,000 employees at JetBlue and most of them are from Queens. York College is such an integral part of the community.”

 During his speech, Neeleman, a dynamic and unassuming businessman, elaborated on the plans he has for his Queens-based airline. With his office in Forest Hills and his flights, departing Kennedy Airport, it seems Neeleman is heavily vested in the well-being of the Queens community.

 The chief executive officer, one of Inc. Magazine’s recent Top 25 Business Leaders, has plans for environmentally-friendly and quieter jets, to make more use of the AirTrain, and to improve the flow of traffic on the parkways leading to Kennedy by encouraging travelers to take the [Air] train to the plane. And now York College has also become an integral part of his business plans.

“I have come here because we have to work together to make it a community where kids can study and work,” said Neeleman, who has looked at the downtown, Jamaica area for possible office space.

JetBlue Airways, with the cooperation of the Port Authority (PA), will be providing several part-time jobs to resourceful York College students. Students will work for a few hours at the airport with JetBlue early mornings or evenings, fitting classes and homework around work. Neeleman spoke about the possibility of providing free rides on the AirTrain for the students to make their employment with his company economically feasible.

“We should work together,” said Neeleman of JetBlue, which has daily flights to all 50 states plus the Caribbean. “Let’s make this a great institution. We want to matter to York College and the community. The more you matter, the more you make a difference. That is direct happiness.”

Meanwhile, York College President Marcia V. Keizs presented Neeleman with souvenirs of his visit and he donated round-trip airline tickets for two lucky breakfast attendees to anywhere within the continental United States. A sponsor of the breakfast, Royal Waste Services, also donated $3,000 dollars to be used as stipends for aviation students.

This event was the second in the Executive Leadership Breakfast Series which was kicked off last month by City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. The series is one facet of President Keizs’ overall plan to continue to engage corporate, civic and community leaders in the future of York College. 

“What a proud moment it is to welcome one of this country’s preeminent visionaries, accomplished business leaders and concerned citizens to our campus,” said President Keizs. “What an inspiration for all of us, especially the students attending our new Aviation Institute, to hear about David Neeleman’s journey.”

Neeleman said, in closing: “This visit won’t be the last York College students see of me.”

The capacity crowd included Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, City Councilman Leroy Comrie, Congressman Gregory Meeks and former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman along with principals from co-sponsors DMJM Harris and Elmhurst Dairy.

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