Skip to main content

Honoring homegrown leadership

David Jackson’s journey from ASU West Valley campus graduate to steering Knight-Swift Transportation

Two men holding a plaque.

Retiring Knight-Swift Transportation President and CEO David Jackson (left) accepting the 2024 Executive of the Year award from W. P. Carey Dean Ohad Kadan at the Economic Club of Phoenix event on April 4. Photo by W. Scott Mitchell Photography

April 09, 2024

When Phoenix native David Jackson was a finance student at Arizona State University’s West Valley campus, he gave separate presentations on two of the country’s largest trucking companies. Little did he know, years later, he would help orchestrate their megamerger.

Jackson, who recently retired from his role as president and CEO of Arizona-born Knight-Swift Transportation, the largest full-truckload freight transportation company in North America, was recently honored by ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business as the 2024 Executive of the Year.

“David is someone whose contribution to business and community is significant, whose inspired leadership has created and sustained superior organizational performance, and whose presence exemplifies a model for current and future rising business professionals,” said Amy Ostrom, W. P. Carey School vice dean, President's Professor and PetSmart Chair in Services Leadership.

Jackson was chosen as the 41st Executive of the Year by the Dean's Council, a national group of prominent executives who advise the W. P. Carey School. At a recent event hosted by the Economic Club of Phoenix to celebrate this recognition, he shared about his experiences, the history and the culture of the Fortune 500 company, which boasts roughly 35,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenues.

“I got the opportunity to visit Knight-Swift a few months ago with our team,” said W. P. Carey Dean Ohad Kadan. “I was so impressed not only because of David’s success as a CEO … but because some of the things he highlighted when we met were about culture, values and how he knows his truckers, the drivers. I'm so proud to be the dean of a school whose alum talks about values and culture and how much he cares about the people in his organization.”

In 2000, Jackson graduated from ASU with degrees in global business and financial management, subsequently stepping into a position at Knight Transportation. He rose through the ranks to become its chief financial officer in 2004, president in early 2011 and CEO in 2015. Two years later, he oversaw the company’s merger with Swift Transportation.

Today, Jackson is a member of the Dean’s Council at W. P. Carey as well as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. In 2016, Forbes magazine recognized him as one of America’s Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under. In November 2017, the Knight-Swift Logistics Lab opened at the ASU West Valley campus, thanks to a generous donation from Knight-Swift Transportation.

“ASU prepared me very well,” Jackson said. “I can't be more thankful for what it did for me and continues to do for me, and the business school has only grown by multiples ever since.”

At the W. P. Carey School’s recent 2024 Executive of the Year celebration event, Jackson called attention to the next chapter of Knight-Swift leadership, introducing Adam Miller, a fellow ASU graduate (’02 BS in accountancy) who shares with Jackson a similar upbringing in the West Valley and a reputation as a long-standing pillar of the company. Miller stepped into the role of CEO for Knight-Swift in February.

"I'm very pleased and excited for Adam Miller to be the new CEO,” Jackson said. “… He's the most intelligent, capable, and prepared person to take over. So I take great satisfaction in passing the baton to him."

The assurance Jackson said he feels in Miller's leadership abilities mirrors the foundations of Knight Transportation. Founded in 1990 by four cousins with a vision of safety and customer service, the company has grown with the same deliberate intentionality that Jackson applied to Miller’s preparation.

“This is one of the most significant backyard success stories in the history of Arizona,” Jackson said. “It’s a business that started with personal investment. It didn't start with state or federal funding as a safety net. This started when two sets of brothers who are cousins cut their teeth in transportation working for Swift Transportation throughout the ’70s and ’80s and decided they had a different way to do it. It’s fun to be part of a true local success story like ASU and how it has prolifically grown over the years.”

More Business and entrepreneurship


Woman with post-it notes on her face.

'Adjusting the sails' on student stress

The impact of stress on individuals in work and educational contexts poses a significant financial burden, particularly in the workplace, estimated at around $300 billion annually. And while some…

Students and leaders cut a large ribbon with a banner overheard reading "FAR Lab W. P. Carey School"

Ribbon cutting celebrates opening of Schwab Foundation Financial Access and Research Lab

“We used to have to do this in a closet,” quipped finance students as they demoed the new equipment in the Charles Schwab Foundation Financial Access and Research (FAR) Lab, housed in Arizona State…

Portrait of Marshall Parke.

Thunderbird at ASU alumnus Marshall Parke to deliver keynote at spring 2024 convocation

Marshall Parke, distinguished alumnus of the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and global entrepreneur, will deliver the keynote address at Thunderbird’s convocation…