The amazing story of Chris Gardner's life was published as an autobiography and featured on the silver screen, both titled The Pursuit of Happyness. The book became a New York Times and Washington Post No. 1 bestseller; and, the movie, released by Columbia Pictures in December 2006, earned Will Smith Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild nominations for his moving portrayal as Gardner.
Conquering grave challenges to become a successful entrepreneur, Chris Gardner is an avid motivational and aspirational speaker, addressing the keys to overcoming obstacles and breaking cycles. Gardner is also a passionate philanthropist whose work has been recognized by many esteemed organizations.
Born on February 9, 1954, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Christopher Paul Gardner's childhood was marked by poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse, and family illiteracy. Gardner published his autobiography out of a desire to shed light on these universal issues and show that they do not have to define you. Gardner never knew his father, and lived with his beloved mother, Bettye Jean Triplett, when he wasn't in foster homes. Gardner is indebted to Bettye Jean for his success, as she provided him with strong "spiritual genetics" and taught him that in spite of where he came from, he could chart another path and attain whatever goals he set for himself.
Gardner joined the Navy out of high school and after discharge moved to San Francisco where he worked as a medical research associate and for a scientific supply distributor. In 1981, as a new father to son Christopher Gardner Jr., he was determined to find a career that would be both lucrative and fulfilling. Fascinated by finance, but without connections, an MBA, or even a college degree, Gardner applied for training programs at brokerages, willing to live on next to nothing while he learned a new trade. Chris Jr.'s mother left and Gardner, despite his circumstances, fought to keep his son because, as he says, "I made up my mind as a young kid that when I had children they were going to know who their father is and that he isn't going anywhere."
Gardner earned a spot in the Dean Witter Reynolds training program but became homeless when he could not make ends meet on his meager trainee salary. Today, Gardner is involved with homelessness initiatives assisting families to stay intact, and assisting homeless men and women who are employed but still cannot get by. It is estimated that 12% of the homeless population in the United States is employed; in some communities that estimate is as high as 30%.
From 1983–1987, Gardner worked at Bear Stearns & Co where he became a top earner. In 1987, he founded the brokerage firm Gardner Rich in Chicago from his home with just $10,000. Gardner Rich LLC is a FINRA registered broker-dealer specializing in servicing public pension funds and Taft-Hartley plans for some of the nation's largest institutions and unions. In addition to expanding its core business as an institutional securities broker, Gardner Rich has increased its participation in corporate underwriting and has expanded its brokerage services to include trading in global markets through both ordinary and ADR form.
Dedicated to improving the well being of children through positive paternal involvement, Gardner is a board member of the National Fatherhood Initiative and received the group's Father of the Year Award in 2002. He served on the board of the National Education Foundation and sponsors two annual awards—the National Education Association's National Educational Support Personnel Award and the American Federation of Teachers' Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRP) Award. He also serves on the board of the International Rescue Committee, which works to provide access to safety, sanctuary, and sustainable change for millions of people whose lives have been shattered by violence and oppression. Gardner is also very committed to Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, where he and his son received assistance in the early 1980s. He has helped fund a project that creates low-income housing and opportunities for employment in the notoriously poor Tenderloin area of the city.
Chris Gardner's aim, through his speaking engagements and media projects, is to help others achieve their full potential.
- NAACP Image Awards for both the book and movie versions of The Pursuit of Happyness
- Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (LACAAW) Humanitarian Award
- The Glaucoma Foundation's Kitty Carlisle Hart Lifetime Achievement Award
- The Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce's Friends of Africa Award
- National Fatherhood Initiative's Father of the Year Award
- The Pursuit of Happyness
- Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be