Chobani Founder and CEO to Address Baruch College’s Class of 2023 at Commencement Ceremony
May 17, 2023
Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and chief executive officer of Chobani, will deliver the main address to the Class of 2023 at Baruch College’s Commencement Exercises on May 30.
The ceremony will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY and will be livestreamed on the Baruch College website.
Baruch College will award an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Ulukaya, and award-winning filmmaker and alumnus Sam Pollard.
“I know from experience that Baruch is a special place, and I’m so honored to join the Class of 2023 on their special day,” said Ulukaya. “The world needs these students’ energy, perspective, and ideas now more than ever. I cannot wait to celebrate their success and see them off to new adventures.”
“It is a privilege to have Hamdi as Baruch College’s Commencement speaker,” said President S. David Wu. “His extraordinary story of coming to America as an immigrant, launching a now billion-dollar company from scratch, and becoming one of today’s most admired businessmen and internationally recognized philanthropists will be inspiring to our Class of 2023, who are strivers and achievers in their own right.”
Chobani: The Baruch Connection
Ulukaya’s success story exemplifies the American dream. He was raised in a dairy-farming family in a small village in eastern Turkey. He immigrated to the United States in 1994 to study English — and later took classes at Baruch College.
A Baruch professor learned of Ulukaya’s cheesemaking background and asked for a lesson at her upstate farm. Ulukaya loved the area—it reminded him of home—and ultimately decided to stay. He worked on a dairy farm and then started a feta cheese company.
In 2005, Ulukaya obtained a loan from the Small Business Administration to purchase an old yogurt factory he had seen in an advertisement. Two years later, he launched Chobani with the mission of making high-quality food more accessible—which underscores Ulukaya’s outlook on life and his company: “You do well by doing good.”
Billion Dollar Brand with a Focus on Humanitarianism
Five years after selling the first cup of yogurt, Chobani became a billion-dollar brand, and today is the top selling yogurt in the U.S. The company has since expanded its portfolio to include dairy and plant-based creamers, oat milk, and coffee.
Ulukaya also built Chobani with an emphasis on purpose. In 2020-21, in response to the pandemic, the company donated 10.5 million products to fight food insecurity across America, and it also advocates for policies that work toward ending hunger for 17 million American children.
Ulukaya is well-known for his employee-first policies, including instituting 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 hiring them that “the minute a refugee gets a job is the minute they stop being a refugee.”
International Recognition for Philanthropic Leadership
Ulukaya was named an Eminent Advocate by the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2016 and received the United Nations Foundation Global Leadership Award for launching the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a foundation that mobilizes the business community to connect refugees for work. Tent’s 300 corporate members include Amazon, H&M, Adidas, Hilton, L’Oréal, and Pfizer.
In 2022, UN Secretary-General António Guterres named him as a Sustainable Development Goals Advocate. He also received the Oslo Business for Peace Award in 2019, the Global Citizen Prize in 2019, and the George H.W Bush Points of Light Award in 2020.
TIME Magazine named Ulukaya to its 100 Most Influential People in the World list in 2017 for his work on the refugee crisis and his innovative approach to business.
Commencement 2023: Celebrate and Share the Achievements of the Class of 2023
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