COLLEGE STATION – Three of the transportation industry’s most prominent contributors have been selected for induction into the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor.
The inductees are Gibb Gilchrist, a former executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation; DeWitt Greer, a former state commissioner of transportation and executive director of TxDOT; and Herb Kelleher, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines. Each of the three will be honored in separate ceremonies during the spring and summer hosted by the Texas Transportation Institute, which manages the Hall of Honor at TTI’s offices in College Station.
“The Hall of Honor is intended to recognize that small group of people whose exceptional leadership and vision made possible the outstanding transportation system we enjoy today in Texas,” TTI Deputy Director Dennis Christiansen said in announcing the inductees. ‘We’re proud and thankful to recognize these three great leaders for what they’ve given to the people of Texas and the nation.”
Gilchrist served as the head of the state transportation department during two separate periods between 1924 and 1937. He is credited with restructuring the agency and successfully guiding it through a tumultuous period in history, navigating numerous political storms while preserving both personal and agency-wide integrity. Gilchrist later went on to become dean of engineering, president and chancellor of Texas A&M University, where he strengthened the transportation research program and laid the groundwork for the establishment of TTI. Gilchrist died in 1972.
Greer’s service to TxDOT spans more than half a century, beginning as an entry-level engineer in 1927 and continuing with his rise to head of the agency in 1940, a position he held until 1968. The following year, he was appointed to the state transportation commission, which he served as both member and chairman until 1981. Greer is credited with expert financial management of TxDOT and also for shaping legislation that ensured adequate funding for the rapidly expanding highway network in Texas. Under his leadership, the state’s highway network grew from 22,000 miles to more than 72,000 miles. Greer died in 1986.
Kelleher was one of Southwest Airline’s founders in 1967. He served as CEO since 1978 and chairman since 1981. For more than two decades, the consistent success enjoyed by the airline has been directly linked with the customer service style and leadership provided by Kelleher. The freedom to fly is a staple in the 58 cities now served by Southwest. Thirty years after an idea scratched out on a cocktail napkin first took flight, the airline’s leader is still looking for ways to change the way people travel. Kelleher boasts many industry firsts, but perhaps his favorite is being first in the heart of his employees. With 28 consecutive years of profitability, the industry¿s best customer service record and more than 30,000 employees, Kelleher is still making aviation history.
The inductions of Gilchrist, Greer and Kelleher follow the Institute¿s first honoree, Frank Turner. A Texas native, he was the first director of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, which later became the Federal Highway Administration. Turner, widely regarded as the father of the interstate highway system, was inducted last year.