Commencement Speaker

Sage Announces Chobani Founder & CEO as 2013 Commencement Speaker

March 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Albany & Troy, N.Y. - The Sage Colleges announced that Hamdi Ulukaya, president, founder and CEO of Chobani, Inc., maker of Chobani Greek Yogurt, will deliver the 96th Commencement address on Saturday, May 18. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at the Houston Field House in Troy.[Chobani Hamdi]

Ulukaya was named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 Overall Award Winner, the country's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs, and received the National Entrepreneurial Success of the Year Award for 2012 by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Ulukaya was born and raised in Turkey to a dairy farming and manufacturing family. His personal journey in the dairy industry started in the U.S., where he launched Euphrates, a wholesale producer of authentic feta cheese, in 2002 in a state-of-the-art facility in Johnstown, NY. The company took its name from the Euphrates River that flows near Ulukaya's home in the eastern mountains of Turkey.

After reaching quick success with Euphrates, Ulukaya purchased an abandoned dairy manufacturing facility near Utica in 2005 and spent almost two years perfecting the recipe for a Greek yogurt line and launched a new dairy venture, Chobani, Inc. The first cup of Chobani hit shelves in 2007 and has since become America's #1 selling yogurt brand, growing into a nearly billion dollar company in less than five years.

Chobani, or 'chopani', means 'shepherd' in Mediterranean languages and is a word that holds much meaning for Ulukaya as it's a symbol of giving yet asking nothing in return. This notion of generosity shines true to the brand, as it donates 10 percent of its annual profits through the Shepherd's Gift Foundation, to individuals working for positive, long lasting change.

Ulukaya serves on the Upstate New York Regional Advisory Board for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Pathfinder Village board. He's also an avid supporter of independent films and funds several festivals throughout the year.