Author: David Dodson
Contact: Courtney Aldrich


Athens, Ga. – The Terry Leadership Speaker Series at the University of Georgia concludes its spring speaker schedule with a pair of customer–focused executives from two of Georgia’s best-known companies.

Dan T. Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick–fil–A, and Jerry S. Wilson, the chief customer and commercial officer for the Coca–Cola Company, will present two separate lectures during March. Both talks, which are open to the public, are sponsored by the Institute for Leadership Advancement at the Terry College of Business.

Cathy’s lecture is set for Friday, March 4, beginning at 10:10 a.m. in the UGA Chapel. Admission is free, and complimentary Chick–fil–A breakfast will be available beforehand. Wilson’s lecture will take place on Friday, March 25, in the UGA Chapel at 10:10 a.m.

Since 2001, Cathy has led the 1,490–unit chain, representing the next generation of leadership for the Atlanta–based quick– service chicken restaurant chain founded by his father, S. Truett Cathy.

Dan Cathy is renowned for leading the company from the front lines. He spends the majority of his time traveling to grand–opening ceremonies for new Chick–fil–A restaurants and visiting restaurant operators and employees. He said he does this out of the belief that working in the field provides a clearer understanding of the evolving wants and needs of Chick–fil–A customers.

Several marketplace awards have affirmed Chick–fil–A’s customer commitment. In 2008, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates named Chick–fil–A among the top 25 “Customer Service Champs.” Chick-fil-A ranked 22nd overall and was one of only two restaurant concepts listed. And in 2009, Chick–fil–A received Restaurant & Institutions magazine’s “Choice in Chains” award for the 16th time in 16 years. In 2004, Chick–fil–A was honored with Fast Company magazine’s inaugural “Customer First” award.

After graduating from Georgia Southern University with a business degree, Cathy went to work for Chick–fil–A as director of operations. As the company grew, so did his responsibilities, and he was named president and COO in 2001.

A native of Jonesboro, Ga., Cathy is a trustee of Berry College and a member of the advisory board for Berry’s Campbell School of Business. He is a licensed pilot, inducted member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and a trumpet player in the New Hope Baptist Church band.

Wilson, a 1978 Terry College graduate, is a board–elected senior vice president of the Coca–Cola Co., where he currently serves as chief customer and commercial officer. In this role, he leads a global organization that is responsible for crafting and executing the company’s customer and commercial strategy. He and his team lead the Coca–Cola’s global system in building customer relationships, with a focus on best–in–class innovation, retail execution, consumer and shopper marketing, and revenue growth management.

Prior to his current role, Wilson served as president of the Global McDonald’s Division, where he led a worldwide organization responsible for growing this important business alliance in 118 countries representing over 31,000 restaurants that served 58 million consumers a day.

Wilson has been with Coca–Cola 21 years, rising from an area account executive to senior management. Before his career with Coke, he spent eight years with Volkswagen of America. He is also co–author of the book Managing Brand YOU – 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self.

Cathy and Wilson are the last of four senior executives who have been invited to address students this school year through the Terry Leadership Speaker Series. Craig Barrs, Georgia Power’s executive vice president for external affairs, spoke in September. And Elisha Finney, CFO of Varian Medical Systems, spoke in October.

The Institute for Leadership Advancement is a leadership development unit housed in the Terry College of Business. Its programs stress the importance of principled leadership based on core values and emphasize leadership as a collaborative process and not as a position. The institute’s ultimate aim is to create a new class of leaders who are well trained and ready for responsibility, committed to stewardship and pursuers of excellence, characterized by integrity and defined by purpose.