1997 Trailblazer Award Recipient: Gordon M. Bethune

1997: AAF-Houston’s inaugural Trailblazer Gordon M. Bethune has brought worldwide acclaim to Houston as Chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines for leading one of the most dramatic corporate turnarounds in U.S. history. Bethune rescued the financially troubled carrier, saving the company and thousands of Houston jobs. He has become a legend in commercial aviation.

Since Bethune’s arrival in 1994, Continental has thrived, winning more awards for customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates than any other airline. Fortune magazine named Continental among the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. BusinessWeek named Bethune one of the top 25 global managers. Aviation Week and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum honored him with the Laureate in Aviation trophy.

Bethune keeps the focus on Continental’s employees and credits them for the airline's progress. His magic reaches across all levels of the organization. Continental's stock price has risen from $2 to over $50 per share. Relocating Continental’s headquarters to downtown Houston is adding to the City’s revitalization efforts.

As Houston’s Hometown Airline, Continental has become a giant in community sponsorships with Houston area arts, sports, civic, and community organizations. A native Texan, Bethune serves on the boards of directors of Honeywell International Corporation, Sprint Nextel Corporation, Prudential Financial, and the New York Academy of Art.

Bethune has held a number of senior management positions in commercial airlines, including vice president of engineering and maintenance for Braniff International Airways and Western Airlines, and senior vice president operations for Piedmont Airlines. He is a licensed commercial pilot, type rated on Boeing 757 and 767 and DC-3. He is also licensed as an airframe and power plant mechanic.

Bethune joined the U.S. Navy in 1958 as an aircraft maintenance officer, achieving the rank of full Lieutenant when he retired 20 years later. A native of San Antonio and Austin, he holds a B.S. degree in general studies from Abilene Christian University at Dallas and is a graduate of Harvard Business School's advanced management program. He also holds honorary doctorate degrees from the College of Aeronautics, Farleigh Dickinson University and Montclair State University.