Chris Gardner – ENTREPRENEUR
BIRTHDAY: February 9, 1954
AGE: 60 years old
OCCUPATION: Founder & CEO of Gardner Rich & Co
Chris Gardner is an entrepreneur, investor, stockbroker, motivational speaker, author, and philanthropist who was homeless in the early 1980s. He struggled with homelessness while raising his toddler son, Christopher, Jr. Gardner’s book of memoirs, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, was published in May 200. 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.
He had dreams of becoming a doctor, which he abandoned at the age of 26. 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. However, with ten years of medical training ahead of him and with changes in health care just on the horizon, he realized that the medical profession would be vastly different by the time he could practice medicine. 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.
His relationship with Sherry was detached, in part because of his decision to abandon a medical career and also due to differences in their behavior. While still living with Sherry, he began an affair with a dental student named Jackie Medina, and she became pregnant with his child only a few months into the affair. After three years of marriage to Sherry, he left her to move in with Jackie and to prepare for fatherhood. Nine years elapsed before he and Sherry were legally divorced in 1986.
Gardner was featured in the Canadian documentary Come on Down: Searching for the American Dream (2004), where he spoke about the American Dream at his office in downtown Chicago. The documentary also featured Bob Barker and Hunter S. Thompson.
Gardner was a keynote speaker at a National Agents Alliance NAA Leadership Conference in 2011. Gardner also made a cameo appearance in the 2008 comedy film The Promotion, where he played a community leader.
He was portrayed by Will Smith in the 2006 film adaptation of his novel.