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Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani, named Northeastern’s 2022 commencement speaker

Hamdi Ulukaya. Courtesy photo

This is part of our coverage of Northeastern’s 2022 Commencement exercises. For more information, including a livestream, photos, and live coverage throughout the day, visit our dedicated Commencement page.

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of leading Greek yogurt brand Chobani, will deliver Northeastern University’s undergraduate commencement address on Friday, May 13, at 5 p.m. in iconic Fenway Park.

The ceremony will take place before a global audience of nearly 30,000 graduates, their families, and members of the Northeastern community. Ulukaya will also receive an honorary doctoral degree.

“We all have a shared responsibility to make the world a better place. As our future leaders, innovators and changemakers, these students give me hope for what’s to come,” said Ulukaya. “I’m delighted to join the Northeastern Class of 2022 to help start them on this journey and I can’t wait to see the great things they will inevitably achieve!”

Ulukaya’s story is one of hard work, entrepreneurship, and giving back. He arrived in the United States from eastern Turkey in 1994 with only $3,000 in his pocket. About a decade later, he acquired an old yogurt factory in upstate New York.

Before producing a single cup of the delicious, nutritious Greek yogurt he popularized, Ulukaya had a clear vision for his company: To deliver better quality food at accessible prices to communities in need of it.

“When one’s passion for changing the world is combined with a relentless pursuit to innovate, it is a recipe for success,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “Hamdi Ulukaya has built a global business and translated its success into positive impact on communities and lives. Our graduates will be inspired by his story and be uplifted by his message as they pursue their own journeys.”

Complementing Ulukaya’s mission-driven work at Chobani are his philanthropic endeavors. In 2016, Ulukaya signed the Giving Pledge, which was created by investing guru Warren Buffett and former Microsoft executives Bill and Melinda Gates to spur billionaires “to publicly commit to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy either during their lifetimes or in their wills,” according to its website.

Ulukaya also founded the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a global nonprofit made up of a network of over 200 companies that are committed to integrating refugees to help them thrive in their host communities. Ulukaya also serves on the board of La Colombe Torrefaction, LLC, Pathfinder Village, and the Tent Partnership for Refugees.

Ulukaya spoke recently about the need for businesses—not just governments and nonprofit organizations—to help address the refugee crisis that’s resulted from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“More and more companies are realizing that it is our collective duty to stand up for our common humanity—and we must continue to show our compassion and support for all refugees as they restart their new lives,” he said.

On April 7, Ulukaya visited the Ukraine/Poland border, along with representatives from the Tent Partnership for Refugees and the United Nations Refugee Agency, to better understand how his organization can provide refugees from Ukraine with the help they need as they flee the war and settle into new communities.

Ulukaya had been sympathetic to the plight of refugees even before his business success. In an interview with the New York Times, the food entrepreneur spoke about hiring refugees in the early days of Chobani—people who’ve resettled from various parts of the world in the snowbelt city of Utica, a city not far from the plant in New Berlin, New York. The city has taken in some 17,000 refugees from more than 40 countries, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Chobani now employs people who speak more than 20 different native languages. Ulukaya follows a diverse and distinguished list of Northeastern commencement speakers, ranging from President Bill Clinton to former Secretary of State Colin Powell to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Earlier on Friday, May 13—also in Fenway Park—Northeastern will hold its 2022 commencement ceremony for the university’s graduate students. The speaker for the graduate student ceremony will be announced in the coming days.

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu.

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