In 2015, Alumnus G.J. (’84) and Heather Hart 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, 2015. 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 the School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management Directo 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.

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.” 

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, Hillary, Ashley and Randall.

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