Honorary Degree Recipient
EDWIN I. COLODNY
Doctor of Laws
Throughout his five decades as one of America’s top business executives, Edwin Colodny was best known for his transformation of USAir from a small regional carrier into an airline industry powerhouse. Later in his career, Colodny earned a reputation for guiding major organizations such as the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care through critical periods of transition and leaving them prepared to flourish in the years ahead.
A native of Burlington, Colodny’s journey began on South Winooski Avenue less than a mile from the UVM campus. After graduating from the University of Rochester and later from Harvard with a law degree, he worked as a trial lawyer for the Civil Aeronautics Board before joining USAirways (then named Allegheny Airlines) as assistant to the president in 1957. He worked his way up the ranks until being named president and CEO in 1975.
Colodny is credited with reshaping the airline industry by having the savvy to ride the wave of deregulation, an era that started in 1978 when USAir began buying up small airlines. The acquisitions turned USAir (now USAirways) into a major national carrier with over $6.5 billion in revenues. By the time Colodny left the airline in 1992 after serving as chairman of the board since 1978, he’d become known as a master of mergers.
With a career as successful as Colodny’s behind him, many executives would have gone silently into retirement. Not Colodny. In many ways he was about to start the second half of his career, which started the year he left USAir and began a 10-year run as counsel at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky, & Walker in Washington D.C. He also served as chairman of Comsat Corp., a leading provider of global satellite and digital networking services, from 1997 until the corporation’s merger with Lockheed Martin in 2000.
During his tenure in the corporate world, Colodny also played a leadership role in the world of higher education. He served as chair of the Board of Trustees at the University of Rochester from 1985 to 1988, where he helped guide the university through issues similar to ones he would face as interim president at UVM starting in June of 2001. Those challenges included an overall strategic change, financial challenges, fundraising, and an effort to improve the university’s image and marketing.
Once again, it was assumed that Colodny would retire when he stepped down as UVM’s interim president in 2002. And once again, that assumption would prove incorrect. Colodny stepped into another interim leadership role in his hometown, guiding Fletcher Allen Health Care through a difficult period of transition before stepping down in 2003. If Colodny chooses not to take on another major leadership position, it will be a rest well deserved.