The Colgate Scene
September 2007

People on the go

Lauri Curtis Hadobas '77 [Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez]

When Lauri Curtis Hadobas '77 isn't leading American Airlines' 17,000 flight attendants, she's keeping the peace among her three teenaged children. When she isn't working with a group of Indian employees to devise vegetarian meals for the Delhi service, she's planning family dinners. Many people would find juggling a full-time career as American's vice president for onboard service with a bustling family life overwhelming, but Hadobas is flying high.

Determination has fueled Hadobas throughout her life, even in times of uncertainty. Having majored in social psychology and Spanish, she intended to pursue a social work career, but a senior-year internship at a child abuse agency in New York City left Hadobas disheartened with the field, feeling like she couldn't begin to make a dent in the world's problems. Some serious soul searching and a desire to use her Spanish-speaking skills inspired her to explore the transportation industry. With the help of the alumni office, she wrote to six alumni involved in travel and transportation. One of them was Otto Becker '38, then senior vice president of sales and services for American Airlines.

Hadobas's gumption became readily apparent to Becker as soon as they sat down in his office and she told him, "I want to be a vice president of American Airlines." In retrospect, Hadobas appreciates how kind it was that he did not laugh her out of his office. Instead, Becker hired her as a flight attendant, and went on to serve as her mentor until his death just a few years ago.

Although it may have been a lofty ambition for a college senior, over the next 14 years, Hadobas proved she had what it took to achieve her goal. Now responsible for "everything in the cabin except for the cockpit," Hadobas oversees the "in-flight product," from the snacks and meals to the interior design to the service, and is a frequent spokesperson for American in the national media.

Life balance was another important goal, she said; she made sure when she began having children that they would be her number one priority. This mind-set has helped the mom of a 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old boy-girl twins stay grounded. "When they call and they need me, I leave. When I come back, the work is still here; it doesn't go away and the planes keep flying," she stated matter-of-factly.

Hadobas navigated through the turbulence caused by September 11 and, with the slow and steady return of the company's health, is just now able to shift her focus back to developing innovative services, such as testing two forthcoming onboard services, Internet access and a new business class seat that is fully flat at an angle.

Hadobas credits Colgate with providing her the necessary tools for changing courses and being successful.

"Colgate gave me a sense of community and the life experiences to get along with different people," she said. And her social psychology courses have served her well. "I `get' people, which is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse," she joked. "But it's a good match for this job." — Aleta Mayne

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