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Delta CEO Ed Bastian, ’79, speaks at SBU’s 164th annual Commencement Exercises

May 12, 2024

Ed Bastian, Class of 1979For all the success he’s had in the business world, Ed Bastian reminded St. Bonaventure University graduates Sunday of what’s most important in life.

“I have found life is most enriched by living a life of service. Service to your family, service to your employees and co-workers, service to your customers, service to your church, and service to your community,” said Bastian, Class of 1979 and CEO of Delta Airlines since 2016.

“We were not put on this earth to be takers, to be of service primarily to ourselves. We find our greatest rewards by assisting others to realize their opportunities, their potential — to be of service to them.”

Bastian, a 25-year Delta veteran, was the keynote speaker at the university’s 164th Commencement Exercises, which recognized more than 700 students who earned graduate or undergraduate degrees. He previously received an honorary doctorate from SBU in 2008.

Dr. Jeff Gingerich, university president, paid tribute to the senior class that started their college career during the height of the COVID pandemic.

“We can never, ever thank you enough for the resilience and fortitude you displayed in staying here during an unprecedented period in our history,” Gingerich said. “The restrictions imposed by the global pandemic made life as a college student a significant challenge, but you persevered and made it here today.”

Maya HendersonMaya Henderson, a Political Science major from Orchard Park, was the student speaker and asked her classmates to remember how Bonaventure helped shape them.

“Even though we might not grow like trees on the outside, we share more similarities than you may think. Every experience in life is a branch, every memory a leaf and every connection anothernew root,” Henderson said. “It’s no coincidence that our very own St. Francis of Assisi dedicated his sainthood to cultivating a relationship with the natural  world. No matter how far we get off the ground, we will always grow first from our roots.”

Four-hundred undergraduate students and 302 graduate students were recognized, which included students who graduated in December and those who will graduate in August.

Fr. Kevin Mullen, O.F.M., received an honorary doctorate. The former Siena College president (2007-2014) was, from 2014 to 2023, the provincial minister of Holy Name Province. A trustee of St. Bonaventure since 2014, his term on SBU’s board expired this spring.

Michael Hickey, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, read the citation presenting Mullen for the honor.

Belinda Lingoupou-Landou“During his time on our Board, Father Kevin offered the kind of invaluable insight and wisdom only a person with such vast experience in higher education and Franciscan life could provide to a university deeply committed to its Franciscan mission,” Hickey said.

Bastian’s values-based leadership propelled Delta to become an industry leader and a trusted global brand, guided by empathy, humanity and devotion to service. He has helped steer Delta, which has more than 100,000 employees worldwide, through the most challenging periods of the company’s history, including 9/11, bankruptcy and COVID-19.

In 2018, Fortune magazine named Bastian among “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

“You also will be served well by the Franciscan values that are the foundation of our St. Bonaventure education,” Bastian told graduates. “In the years since my own graduation, I’ve always felt driven to put people-focused values at the center of everything I do. That mindset was forged right here at Bona’s.”




About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. Out of 167 regional universities in the North, St. Bonaventure was ranked #6 for value and #14 for innovation by U.S. News and World Report (2024).