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Apr 1, 2015

Hospitality from the Harts

Restaurant titan G.J. ('84) and Heather Hart give more than $3 million to name JMU's school

Video of the HartsAlumnus G.J. (’84) and Heather Hart have announced a gift commitment of more than $3 million to name the Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management at JMU. Their gift represents JMU’s first named school.

President Jonathan Alger made JMU’s announcement at the Annual Stewardship Luncheon on March 20. The Harts appeared on video at the luncheon. They had announced their gift March 18 at Camp Pendleton as part of the Annual Operators Conference of California Pizza Kitchen, of which G.J. is CEO.

Ten JMU students and School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management Director Michael O’Fallon were part of the CPK conference, one day of which is set aside for service. The JMU contingent and 800 CPK operators worked alongside U.S. Marines to improve facilities for returning veterans at Camp Pendleton. This is the seventh year G.J and Heather have engaged JMU hospitality students to work the California Pizza Kitchen’s Annual Operators Conference.

Service, leadership and passion have characterized Hart’s rise from poultry processor to executive chairman and chief executive officer of California Pizza Kitchen, an international chain of restaurants with more than 280 locations in the United States and 15 other countries.

As a student at JMU, Hart worked full time at the Shenandoah Valley Poultry Company in Bridgewater, Va., to put himself through college and help pay the bills at home. Hart calls the experience “far from glamorous,” but, he said, it was during those years toiling in the poultry plant that he learned many of the leadership lessons he has followed throughout his successful career in the hospitality industry.  

“My hope for the School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management is to become a world-class program, a program where we turn out students who are going to do great things in the world and they are going to do it with purpose,” says G. J. Hart.

G.J. ('84) and Heather Hart, family, and JMU students and personnellAlong with the Harts, 10 JMU students and leaders were involved in this year's CPK Operators Conference in California. Back row: Esther Yoo ('17), Cynthia Cline ('82), Katherine Hoer('14), Alanna Ross ('15), G.J. Hart ('84), Kristen Gratton ('15), Christina Dean ('15), Taylor Walton ('15) and Michael O'Fallon (director of the School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management). Front row: Emily Platt ('17), Erin Breen ('15), Ashley Hart, Heather Hart, Randall Hart, Ally Nurik ('15), Jessica Battaglini ('15), and Lisa O'Fallon.

The Harts expressed their hope that their gift would encourage others to follow suit.

“Our intention is that this gift might have others thinking about how can they give back to the university and make a long lasting imprint.  I would encourage everyone to think about it. We need to help our young people be successful. And hopefully everyone will join with us,” they said.

“James Madison University is extremely grateful for the Harts’ investment in our community,” Alger said. “G.J. and Heather’s gift exemplifies the service, leadership and passion that they live out each day. Their generosity will touch the lives of many in the Madison family for years to come.”

O’Fallon says that the association with the Harts is invaluable to the university.

"G.J. and Heather's investment of time and talent to James Madison over the years has been instrumental to the success of our relatively young program," says O'Fallon.  "We are so pleased to partner with the Harts to bring even greater value and prestige to our school."

G.J. serves on the College of Business’ Board of Advisors, hosts JMU hospitality students at CPK, and spoke at JMU’s fall 2013 Commencement Ceremony. He has been a loyal JMU donor. Heather was a keynote speaker at the Second Annual Women in Leadership Conference at JMU. She spearheaded the establishment of CPK’s charitable foundation, Inspired Acts. The Harts have created their own family foundation, Hart of Six. They have four children, Ashley, Hillary, Ashley and Randall.








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