Colleen Barrett
Colleen Barrett

Southwest Airlines president speaks March 28

By Marlon Anderson
Director for Inclusion and Community Engagement, Office of Student Activities

(March 27, 2007)--Colleen Barrett, president and corporate secretary of Southwest Airlines, will speak at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 28 in the University Center Retama Auditorium (2.02.02) on the UTSA 1604 Campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Barrett will discuss her pioneering leadership roles in the aviation industry, which historically was led by men. She is president and corporate secretary of Southwest Airlines, a longtime supporter of UTSA.

As the only female president of a major airline in the United States, Barrett has earned accolades from around the country including being named to the World's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2004 and 2005 ( and one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2002 and 2003. (Fortune).

As part of Women's History Month, the lecture is the second event in the LeadUTSA Distinguished Lecture Series. LeadUTSA is an emerging leadership development program for UTSA students that provides opportunities for students to develop potential through experiential learning, mentoring, formal study, leadership conferences and interaction with great leaders.

For more information, contact the Office of Student Activities at (210) 458-6114.


Bio: Colleen Barrett

Colleen Barrett was born in 1944 in a small town in Bellows Falls, Vt. An overachiever since her childhood, Barrett grew up in a home where there was never enough money but always generosity for those less fortunate.

As a junior in high school, she began doing clerical work for a paper company after school and on Saturdays. She also worked for attorneys in the summer. Soon after graduating, she married, attended Becker Junior College in Worchester, Mass., and became a legal secretary.

After her husband returned from service with the U.S. Air Force in Turkey, they were transferred to San Antonio where he would be stationed. In 1968, Barrett worked as a legal secretary for Herb Kelleher, an attorney who formed his own firm two years later. Kelleher became her mentor and coach, and he later co-founded Southwest Airlines.

After divorcing, Barrett remained in San Antonio and continued working for Kelleher. In 1978, she became corporate secretary to Southwest's board of directors. She was named president and COO in 2001, and today serves as president and corporate secretary.

Southwest Airlines was launched with only four Boeing aircraft and fewer than 70 employees. It began service between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio despite legal challenges from rival carriers. As of February 2005, Southwest was the fourth largest airline in America, flying more than 88 million passengers a year to 59 cities in 31 states. It is the only domestic airline to have turned a profit every year since 1973 and repeatedly won the "Triple Crown" for best on-time performance, best baggage handling and fewest customer complaints among major carriers.

Barrett says she never encountered a glass ceiling during her rise through the ranks of Southwest's administration. "Southwest started out 52 percent female," she said, "and we have a strong promote-from-within philosophy. I think I did well because I was born to be a servant leader. I like to serve others and I'm a good problem solver. I had to work hard and learn the business from the bottom up, but I always liked being a student. It was a great ride."

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