G.J. Hart of Newport Beach, Calif., executive chairman, chief executive officer and president of California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), based in Playa Vista, Calif., will speak at James Madison University’s Dec. 14 commencement ceremony. More than 700 students will hear Hart’s words of advice and encouragement when they join him as alumni of the Harrisonburg, Va., public university.
Hart, who graduated from JMU in 1984, joined CPK, an international chain with more than 250 casual dining restaurants in more than 30 states and 11 countries, in August 2011. Earlier, he served as president and CEO of Texas Roadhouse, where he oversaw the growth of revenue from $63 million to more than $1 billion in a ten-year period.
Hart, who grew up in Staunton, Va., started his career as a trainee at the Shenandoah Valley Poultry Company when he was an undergraduate student at JMU, then climbed to roles as general manger and minority of the company in just eight years. Since then he has grown to be a respected industry leader in foodservice operations and management, serving in positions as president of Al Copeland Investments, New Zealand Lamb Company and Trifoods International.
Hart’s contributions to the industry have earned him numerous awards, including the President’s Award from the Incentive Marketing Association, an award from the Professional Convention Management Association, the 2010 Restaurateur of the Year award from the Kentucky Restaurant Association and an award as one of the best CEOs for investor relations by IR Magazine in 2011.
Originally from the Netherlands, Hart and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 5 years old, first settling in New Jersey and finally in Staunton, where his father was a police officer. Hart honors his father’s career by supporting police officers across the nation. In 2006, he and other community leaders created the Louisville Metro Police Foundation, a nonpartisan partnership that garnered Hart recognition by the Kentucky Women’s Law Enforcement Network for his support of police officers in the state.
Hart shares his expertise by serving as an active member of the JMU College of Business Executive Advisory Council. He is active in many philanthropic organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, United Way, the American Red Cross and the Young Presidents Organization.
JMU is a comprehensive university that is part of the statewide system of public higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is the only university in America named for James Madison. Established March 14, 1908, the university offers programs on the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels with its primary emphasis on the undergraduate student.
Posted by Lauren Harrity 12/12/13