2011 Honorary Degree
Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III
Doctor of Letters
Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, III is the heroic pilot who masterfully landed U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River and saved the lives of 155 people. Captain of what has been dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson," Sullenberger is an aviation safety expert and accident investigator who also is the founder and chief executive officer of Safety Reliability Methods, a consulting company dedicated to management, safety, performance, and reliability consulting.
Sullenberger was born and raised in Denison, Texas. After high school, he enrolled at the United States Air Force Academy to pursue his childhood love of aviation. Recipient of a bachelor's degree from the Academy, Sullenberger majored in psychology. In his graduation year at the Academy, he received the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship Award. In addition to his bachelor's degree he also has two master's degrees, one in industrial psychology from Purdue University and one in public administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
Upon graduation from the Academy, Sullenberger served as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force from 1975-1980. He advanced to become a flight leader and a training officer, attaining the rank of captain. His service in the military stationed him in both North America and Europe.
After serving in the Air Force, Sullenberger became an airline pilot with Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA). PSA was later acquired by U.S. Airways, for which he flew until his retirement in March 2010. He has more than 40 years of flying experience. He has performed accident investigation duties for the United States Air Force and served as an Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) representative during a National Transportation Safety Board investigation. Additionally, Sullenberger served as a Local Air Safety Chairman for ALPA, and was a member of the organization's national technical committee, where his work led to the creation of a Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular. He was also instrumental in developing and implementing the Crew Resource Management course used by U.S. Airways, and he has taught the course to hundreds of other airline members.
After logging more than 20,000 hours of service in the skies, Sullenberger became an international hero on Jan. 15, 2009 when he and his crew safely guided U.S. Airways Flight 1549 to an emergency water landing in New York City's frigid Hudson River. The Airbus A320's two engines had lost thrust following a bird strike. Sullenberger and his crew have won international acclaim for their actions that day, including the passage of a Congressional resolution recognizing their bravery.
Sullenberger is married to fitness expert and television personality Lorrie Sullenberger. The couple and their two daughters reside in Danville, California.