WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) reports that Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines, has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.
Established by NAA in 1948 to honor the memory of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the trophy is awarded annually to a living American for “…significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.”
“Colleen Barrett is an industry veteran who can be credited with so much of the success of Southwest Airlines because of the company vision, values, and ideals she helped to create,” said Jim Albaugh, NAA chairman. “She is truly deserving of this great honor.”
Barrett, known as the “Queen of Hearts,” has had a career in aviation that has spanned nearly 50 years. She remains the only woman to serve as president of a major U.S. airline and has dedicated her life to the conception and retention of a unique corporate culture at Southwest Airlines.
After graduating from Becker Junior College in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1964, Barrett relocated to San Antonio, Texas, where she began working as a legal secretary for Herb Kelleher, an attorney and the co-founder of Southwest Airlines. She quickly became involved in the lengthy legal proceedings that eventually allowed the airline to take the skies in 1971.
Barrett formally joined Southwest Airlines in 1978 as Corporate Secretary to the Board of Directors. From there she held many titles including: Vice President of Administration from 1986 to 1990; Executive Vice President of Customers from 1990 to 2001; President and COO from 2001 to 2004; and President from 2004 to 2008.
Barrett will be presented the trophy at the Aero Club of Washington’s Wright Memorial Dinner on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.