The Colleen C. Barrett Institute for Cultural Excellence & Customer Service

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Colleen’s legacy lives on through Employee programs, unique awards, and volunteerism initiatives that began with her vision and continue to represent her core values and Heart for service. Here, we celebrate her lasting impact on the Southwest Family and beyond.

Colleen’s Impact - From the Voice of Others

Colleen’s legacy is evident from the many stories that pour in from Southwest Leaders, Employees, Customers, and others outside of the organization. Here is just a sampling.

Celebrate People

Colleen’s legacy lives on through awards and celebrations that recognize individuals and Teams who champion the Southwest Culture and demonstrate Colleen’s core values and passion for service.

LUV Mail

Colleen’s passion for Customer Service lives on, as evidenced by LUV Mail. Each month, Southwest® gets hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls from Customers, as well as Employees, sharing stories about our Southwest Warriors providing Legendary Customer Service and caring for others. LUV Mail highlights these extraordinary moments.

Coheart Care

Southwest has always endeavored to treat everyone as though they are Family, but when it comes to our own People, Colleen has an extra special place in her Heart. That love was transformed into action over 20 years ago when she established a unique Team within the Executive Office solely dedicated to caring for the Southwest Family. Originally called “Internal Customer Care” (now “Coheart Care”), this small Team exists to bridge the gap between work and home for Southwest Employees. Strong families care for one another through good times and the most difficult moments. That spirit is captured in this excerpt from the Coheart Care message to new Employees:

“…Whether you’re expanding your family, celebrating a child graduating from high school or college, preparing for surgery, navigating grief after loss or any other circumstance that is significant to you, we want to fly alongside you…the love of your Cohearts is something you can count on.”


Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®)

One of the Company’s pilots, Captain Dick East, introduced Colleen Barrett, and Herb Kelleher to the Ronald McDonald House® program. East had been volunteering at Houses since the loss of his daughter to lymphoma. Instantly enamored with the program’s mission, Barrett and Kelleher encouraged Employees company wide to become involved. Then in February 1985, Southwest officially adopted RMHC as its primary charity.

Southwest’s dedication to the Ronald McDonald House grew as rapidly as the airline itself. Southwest not only devotes its heart and soul to the Charity, but it also provided financial assistance through its annual LUV Classic Tournament and Party. The golf tournament originated in 1985 as a fundraiser for a popular Dallas club owner who was battling cancer. When the owner donated the excess funds to the Dallas Ronald McDonald House, Southwest followed his lead. All proceeds in subsequent years were donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities and eventually expanded to support children’s charities across the Southwest system. The LUV Classic played its final round in 2020 on the 35th Anniversary of the event, having raised a total of $19.1 million for 213 charities and contributed over 54,000 hours of Employee volunteer time. Southwest Employees continue to volunteer their time and resources supporting local Ronald McDonald Houses across the Southwest system.

Becker College

In 2018, Becker College launched The Colleen C. Barrett Center for Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Center serves as an epicenter of innovation, entrepreneurship, learning agility, leadership, and problem-solving on the Becker campus in Worcester, MA. The Center was made possible by the visionary gift of $1 million from Colleen, who has been a passionate supporter of her alma mater since her graduation in 1964.

In 2008, Southwest celebrated Colleen’s transition to President Emeritus by endowing a scholarship at Becker College in her honor. The Colleen C. Barrett Scholarship Fund awarded $2,500 annually to a freshman enrolled at Becker for the fall semester. In addition to meeting certain academic requirements and federally-determined financial needs, the recipient must have exhibited strong communication skills and possess a “Servant’s Heart,” demonstrated through meaningful service to charitable organizations or their community. Becker College closed in the spring of 2021, but Colleen remains grateful for her ability to support her alma mater over the years and for the students impacted by Southwest’s generous scholarship.


Adopt-A-Pilot has long been one of Colleen’s favorite programs for connecting Southwest with local communities. Southwest Pilots volunteer to be “adopted” by an elementary school class and educate them on all things related to being a commercial airline pilot–including following the Pilot on a virtual route map during their trips.

Submit your Colleen story

Do you have a story about the impact Colleen has made on your own life? Share it here and it may be featured by Southwest Airlines in the future!

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