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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]


Chance class project inspires Tilden's airline career

Brad Tilden From early childhood, Brad Tilden '83 was fascinated with airplanes. Today, he not only pilots a Cessna 172 but, as vice president and CFO of Alaska Airlines, he also flies at least twice a month in the company's airplanes.

Tilden's love of airplanes, he says, began on a field trip to the airport where he saw his first Boeing 727. After high school he enrolled at PLU with teaching as his goal. A year or so into his studies, he decided that the proverbial grass of work-opportunities looked greener on the business school's side of the fence.

As an undergraduate Tilden became acquainted with Alaska Airlines' then-CEO Bruce Kennedy, who enlisted Tilden's help on some business projects. "It may have been fate," Tilden muses.

Throughout his undergraduate years Tilden worked as a resident hall assistant and assistant hall director. Summers were spent as an Amtrak train attendant on the Empire Builder. Following graduation he went "Down Under," working at Price Waterhouse's Melbourne, Australia, office; as well as in its Seattle office. Earlier this past decade, he interviewed for and was hired by Alaska Airlines. In 1997 he received an MBA from the University of Washington.

The company recently was the sole airline named in Information Week's first-ever, top 100 e-businesses, where it was ranked 20th on the list. The publication cited Alaska Airlines specifically for being the first U.S. airline to sell tickets online, as well as to enable its customers to check in at the airport via self-service kiosks. Today, 8 percent of the airline's tickets are sold directly on the carrier's website.

Proud of his company's cutting-edge technology, Tilden says it is "a group of people who want to ensure their customers have a great travel experience."

Tilden commented on the January crash, in which an Alaska Airlines plane crashed on a flight from California to Seattle, killing all 88 people on board. He said that was a horrible tragedy, but it was heartening to see his co-workers' reaction. "People came together in ways I never would have imagined, to help the friends and families of the victims. Seeing them made me really proud to be part of the Alaska Airlines team."

Tilden looks back with gratitude on his PLU education. Before he came to PLU, he says, he was an "all right" high school student. But when PLU English Professor Charles Bergman conferred the first A grade on him, it was an occasion that profoundly influenced him. "I figured if I could earn an A in English, what couldn't I accomplish." PLU, he says, is a great school. "I'm fortunate to have attended it, and have fond memories of very caring instructors."

Tilden and his wife, Danielle (Yoakum '84) are the parents of three daughters: Lauren, Jacquie and Maria. Danielle's parents have worked at PLU, and three of her siblings and one of Tilden's sisters also attended PLU.

Pacific Lutheran University Scene
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