Joseph Boardman '74, who led Amtrak during a period of rapid growth and development, passed away surrounded by his family on March 7.

March 14, 2019

Joseph Boardman ’74, Former Amtrak President and CEO, Dies at 70

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Former president and chief executive of Amtrak, Joseph H. Boardman ’74 — who ran the railway giant over a period of rapid growth — died of a stroke on March 7. He was 70.

During Boardman’s time as president and CEO of Amtrak from 2008 to 2016, the railway company saw tremendous growth in ridership and new train cars, as well as the introduction of digital ticketing. In a joint statement released by Amtrak, Chairman Tony Coscia and President and CEO Richard Anderson said that “[Joe was] a tireless advocate for passenger rail and the nation’s mobility.”

From working as a part-time bus driver while attending Cornell to leading Amtrak, Boardman devoted his life to improving transportation available to the public, serving as the longest-running N.Y. state transportation commissioner and administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration under President George W. Bush. During his tenure at Amtrak, Boardman helped to reduce Amtrak’s debt, improved its infrastructure and raised its profitability, the statement said.

Under Boardman’s leadership, Amtrak saw increases in ridership, even millions annually in 2010, 2011, and 2012, according to The New York Times.

While growing up on a dairy farm in Rome, N.Y., Boardman became fascinated with the ability of inexpensive transportation — such as railroad and the Greyhound bus system — to connect people and places, as reported by the Times.

“I’ve got two grandchildren now. One is in North Carolina and one is in New York. I can get to both places on the railroad,” Boardman said in an interview with RailwayAge.

After returning home from serving in Vietnam as part of the Air Force, Boardman applied to Cornell. In a 2013 interview with Railway Magazine, Boardman discussed his family history with the school. His grandfather and uncles had studied at Cornell to become to become veterinarians, so he said he planned to do the same.

However, Boardman never lost his fascination with transportation, and decided to switch his major to agricultural economics, earning a B.A. in 1974. He then obtained his M.A. in Management Science from SUNY Binghamton.

Boardman passed away while on vacation in Florida, surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by his wife, three children and four grandchildren.