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December Graduates

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Your December Commencement Speaker is...

GJ Hart
Photo Credit: Bill Lohr
G.J. Hart, President, Executive Chairman and CEO – California Pizza Kitchen

G.J. Hart is President, Executive Chairman and CEO for California Pizza Kitchen, the authority on California-style pizza and industry leader in creative dining. He is responsible for leading the strategic direction of the company which operates restaurants that incite cravings at more than 260 restaurants and 11 countries worldwide. Mr. Hart joined CPK in August 2011 and is an accomplished restaurant industry veteran, bringing more than 30 years of foodservice operations and management experience to the international pizza chain.

A highly respected industry leader, Mr. Hart has a proven track record of growing casual dining concepts. Prior to joining CPK, he served as President and CEO of Louisville-based Texas Roadhouse restaurants where he spearheaded growth of the brand to more than 390 restaurants in 47 states and two countries. Under Mr. Hart’s leadership, revenues at Texas Roadhouse increased from approximately $63 million in 1999 to more than $1.2 billion in 2011.

Mr. Hart has been consistently recognized for his enthusiasm and leadership, including numerous recognitions for employee engagement and culture. In 2012, Mr. Hart was first to be named into the JMU Hospitality School Hall of Fame. He was also named among Top CEOs by IR Magazine (2011), Restaurateur of the Year by Kentucky Restaurant Association (2010), and Person of Vision by Prevent Blindness Kentucky (2009).

Mr. Hart is an active member of numerous community and philanthropic organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers of America, the Louisville Metro Police Foundation, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. His personal philosophy of leading with your heart and promoting positive change is a well-known characteristic of his leadership style.

Mr. Hart is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), World Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and serves advisory board memberships with the following organizations: Make-A-Wish Foundation (National), Bellarmine University- Trustee, Advisory Board at James Madison University Business School, Kosair Children's Hospital Foundation, Georgetown College Trustee, Board of Trustees Old National Bank – Louisville Region, Louisville Metro Police foundation, Thornton Oil, and University of Louisville’s College of Business and Public Administration.

JMU News Article "JMU alumnus, industry leader to speak at December commencement" (Link)