St. Louis University bumps airline executive from commencement

By Susan C. Thomson St. Louis Post-Dispatch (KRT) ST. LOUIS _ In what a university spokesman described as “a mutual decision,” St. Louis University announced Wednesday that American Airlines CEO Donald Carty would not be the university’s commencement speaker after all. Nor will the university be awarding Carty the honorary doctor of laws degree he was scheduled to receive. Beyond that, spokesman Jeff Fowler stuck with the university’s official statement: “Father Lawrence Biondi (SLU’s president) and Don Carty had a conversation today and in light of recent developments decided that Mr. Carty will not participate in SLU’s commencement event.” Those developments included revelations that the airline had arranged bonuses of double their base salaries that would have been paid to Carty and six other top executives for staying in their jobs through January 2005. In another move, the airline had added extra pension benefits for 45 executives. The airline did not disclose the perks until after three groups of union employees had voted on new contracts, cutting their own pay. The airline said it needed the concessions from the employees in order to avoid having to file for bankruptcy. The airline has since rescinded the bonuses, and Carty has apologized for withholding the details of the executive perks. A spokesman for the airline said that Carty agreed to withdraw as speaker because he needed to focus attention on the airline’s fiscal concerns. “With the financial situation still unresolved at American, Mr. Carty is trimming some near-term commitments outside of the company,” spokesman Tim Wagner said. “He was looking forward to speaking at St. Louis University.” Fowler said St. Louis University was now “actively looking” for a replacement speaker for commencement, scheduled for May 17. ___ ‘copy 2003, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Visit the Post-Dispatch on the World Wide Web at Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.