Chris Gardner in August 2007
February 9, 1954 |
|Occupation||Founder & CEO of Gardner Rich & Co|
Christopher Paul "Chris" Gardner is an American entrepreneur, investor, stockbroker, motivational speaker, author, and philanthropist who, during the early 1980s, struggled with homelessness with his son, Christopher, Jr. Gardner's book of memoirs, The Pursuit of Happyness, was published in May 2006. As of 2012, he is CEO of his own stockbrokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, based in Chicago, Illinois, where he resides when he is not living in Toronto. Gardner credits his tenacity and success to the "spiritual genetics" handed down to him by his mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, née Gardner, and to the high expectations placed on him by his children, son Chris Jr. (born 1981) and daughter Jacintha (born 1985). Gardner's personal struggle of establishing himself as a stockbroker while managing fatherhood and homelessness is portrayed in the 2006 motion picture The Pursuit of Happyness, directed by Gabriele Muccino, starring Will Smith.
The late 1960s and early 1970s was a time of political and musical awakening for Gardner. He developed a deep sense of black pride, as he became familiar with the works of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver. His world view expanded beyond the African American experience; he learned of historical events such as the Sharpeville massacre, and as a result became increasingly aware of apartheid in South Africa and international racial issues. Gardner learned to play the trumpet and he enjoyed listening to music by Sly Stone, Buddy Miles, James Brown and his all-time favorite, Miles Davis.
Marriage and troubles
On June 18, 1977, Chris Gardner married Sherry Dyson, a Virginia native and an educational expert in mathematics. With his knowledge, experience and contacts within the medical field, it appeared Gardner had his medical career plans laid out before him. Gardner was advised to consider more lucrative career options; a few days before his 26th birthday, he informed his wife, Sherry, of his plans to abandon his dreams of becoming a doctor.
It appeared that Gardner got his "break" when he was accepted into a training program at E.F. Hutton. He subsequently quit his sales job so that he could dedicate his time exclusively to training as a stockbroker. When Chris showed up for his first day of work he finds out that his hiring agent has been fired.
Fatherhood and homelessness
Gardner worked to become a top trainee at Dean Witter Reynolds. He arrived at the office early and stayed late each day, persistently making calls to prospective clients with his goal being 200 calls/day. His perseverance paid off when, in 1982, Gardner passed his licensing exam on the first try and became a full employee of the firm. Eventually, Gardner was recruited by Bear Stearns & Company in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, none of Gardner's co-workers knew that he and his son were homeless in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco for nearly a year. Gardner often scrambled to place his child in daycare, stood in soup kitchens and slept wherever he and his son could find safety—in his office after hours, at flophouses, motels, parks, airports, on public transport and even in a locked bathroom at a BART station.
Career as a stockbroker and entrepreneur
In 1987, Chris Gardner established the brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, in Chicago, Illinois, an "institutional brokerage firm specializing in the execution of debt, equity and derivative products transactions for some of the nation’s largest institutions, public pension plans and unions." His new company was started in his small Presidential Towers apartment, with start-up capital of $10,000 and a single piece of furniture: a wooden desk that doubled as the family dinner table. Gardner reportedly owns 75 percent of his stock brokerage firm with the rest owned by a hedge fund. He chose the name "Gardner Rich" for the company because he considers Marc Rich, the commodities trader pardoned by former president Bill Clinton in 2001, "one of the most successful futures traders in the world."
Gardner is a philanthropist who sponsors many charitable organizations, primarily the Cara Program and the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, where he and his son desperately needed shelter. He has helped fund a $50 million project in San Francisco that creates low-income housing and opportunities for employment in the area of the city where he was once homeless. As well as offering monetary support, Gardner donates clothing and shoes. He makes himself available for permanent job placement assistance, career counselling and comprehensive job training for the homeless population and at-risk communities in Chicago.
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
- Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (2009)
- Gandossy, Taylor (January 16, 1222). "From sleeping on the streets to Wall Street". CNN. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- Gardner, Chris (2006). The Pursuit of Happyness. Amistad. ISBN 978-0-06-074487-8.
- Oprah Winfrey (2006-12-14). The Oprah Winfrey Show (TV Show). Chicago, Il.
- "Christopher Gardner: The Official Site". Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- "The Pursuit of Happyness". Sony. December 2006. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- Konkol, Mark J. (2006-12-15). "'Jesus loves me. He only likes you'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- Yang, Jia Lynn (2006-09-15). "'Happiness' for sale: He's gone from homeless single dad to successful stockbroker.". CNN Money. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- Chris Gardner official website
- Biographical article about Chris Gardner
- Chris Gardner Interview
- Gardner Rich Official Website
- Interview with Chris on The Businessmakers Radio Show
- Official Publisher Web Site
- The Pursuit of Happyness Motion Picture Official Website
- Lessons from the Chris Gardner story