Christopher Storm, PhD, provost and executive vice president, has announced the honorary degree recipient and keynote speaker for Adelphi’s 2023 Commencement ceremony: entrepreneur and humanitarian Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani.
A leader in the food manufacturing industry, Ulukaya built Chobani on the foundation that it would do well by doing good. He was raised in a dairy-farming family in a small village in eastern Turkey. In 1994, he moved to the United States to study English at Adelphi, then continued his education at SUNY Albany.
Ulukaya launched a small wholesale feta company in upstate New York before founding Chobani in 2005 with the mission and vision of making quality food more accessible. Five years after selling its first cup of yogurt, Chobani was a billion-dollar brand and is now the number-one selling yogurt brand in the United States. In 2020–2021, the company donated 10.5 million products to fight food insecurity across America and advocated for policies that work toward ending hunger for 17 million American children.
Ulukaya is known for his employee-first policies, including innovative profit-sharing and paid parental leave programs for Chobani’s 2,000-plus employees and implementing competitive hourly wage increases well above the federal rate. He has also become a leading voice in the movement to hire refugees, having discovered through his own experience in hiring them that “the minute a refugee gets a job is the minute they stop being a refugee.”
For his humanitarian and leadership efforts, Ulukaya was named an Eminent Advocate by the United Nations Refugee Agency and received the United Nations Foundation Global Leadership Award, among other recognitions. UN Secretary-General António Guterres recognized him as a Sustainable Development Goals Advocate. Ulukaya has received the Oslo Business for Peace Award, The George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award and the Global Citizen Prize, and he was named one of Time‘s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
The awarding of honorary degrees is the academic distinction conferred by the University to recognize individuals of striking accomplishment in their chosen fields of endeavor whose life’s work embodies our values and aspirations. As someone who attended Adelphi and represents our core values of global-mindedness, community service and social justice, he is a fitting role model for career success and compassion. Our graduating students will be inspired by Hamdi Ulukaya’s self-made career story and his approach to leadership, compassion and philanthropy.
Provost Storm noted, “I hope our community shares my pride in honoring such an accomplished individual at this year’s Commencement, especially one who epitomizes the mission we work toward every day at Adelphi—transforming lives by increasing access to opportunity and through positivity and compassion.”