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Gardner, Chris 1954-

Gardner, Chris 1954-

(Chris P. Gardner)

PERSONAL:

Born 1954, in Milwaukee, WI; son of Bettye Jean Triplett; children: Christopher, Jacintha.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY, and Chicago, IL.

CAREER:

Writer, stockbroker, public speaker, and activist. Gardner Rich & Co. (a stock brokerage), founder and chief executive officer, 1987—; worked as a stockbroker at Dean Witter. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1972-74, served as a medic.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Father of the Year award, National Fatherhood Initiative.

WRITINGS:

(With Quincy Troupe and Mim Eichler Rivas) The Pursuit of Happyness (memoir), Amistad (New York, NY), 2006.

ADAPTATIONS:

The Pursuit of Happyness was adapted into a motion picture starring Will Smith, Columbia Pictures, 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Chris Gardner is a writer, public speaker, activist, and stockbroker. He is the founder and owner of Gardner Rich, a successful brokerage firm that, since its founding in 1987, has made Gardner financially secure. His early life and fledgling days as a financial professional, however, were in no way secure, or even financially tenable. In his memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness, written with Quincy Troupe and Mim Eichler Rivas, Gardner relates the story of how he defeated adversity. Born in 1954, Gardner did not know his biological father growing up, and he was frequently abused by his violent stepfather. A stint in the navy turned him into a medic, and afterward he moved to San Francisco, California, to become a research assistant and work at the veterans hospital there. Gardner and his live-in girlfriend had a son, and eventually he began selling medical equipment. While working this job, Gardner met a man driving a red Ferrari. Smitten with the upscale car, Gardner asked the owner of the automobile what he did for a living. The man replied, "stockbroker." Propelled by that moment, Gardner set out on a single-minded mission to become a stockbroker himself and reap the rewards to be found in a life as a financial professional. For ten months, Gardner worked to find a position as a trainee stockbroker, finally landing a job with Dean Witter. After some hard work, Gardner had reason to be optimistic.

Then, unexpectedly, Gardner's carefully laid plans were jeopardized and his world took a drastic turn toward trouble. His girlfriend decided that she did not want to be their son's caretaker anymore, and she left the boy with Gardner. The boardinghouse where he lived did not allow children, and his small trainee's salary was not enough to afford a place to live; abruptly, alone with his young son and embarking on a stressful professional career, Gardner found himself homeless. Yet the experience did not defeat him. He and his son slept in the Dean Witter offices or in cheap hotels, church shelters, and sometimes in the bus station bathroom. They ate at soup kitchens, cleaned up in public restrooms, and made the best of what little was available to them. In time, with focused attention on his goal and stony determination not to be defeated, Gardner began to pull himself out of his misfortune. Within a year he was no longer homeless, and his successes mounted so prodigiously that he is now a wealthy man with a successful business, a beautiful wife, contented children, and a life story that inspires millions through lectures, books, and an autobiographical motion picture starring Will Smith.

A Kirkus Reviews critic called The Pursuit of Happyness "well-told and admonitory," while Aaron Bryant, writing in the Black Issues Book Review, remarked that it "personifies the American dream." A Publishers Weekly reviewer named it "a quality African-American/ business memoir deserving a wider audience than its niche-market elements might suggest." Gardner "doesn't see his as a rags-to-riches story," commented Marianne Costantinou in the San Francisco Chronicle. "What he hopes people come away with is that life is full of possibility if you put your heart into it and don't give up."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

The Pursuit of Happyness (memoir), Amistad (New York, NY), 2006.

PERIODICALS

Black Issues Book Review, July-August, 2006, Aaron Bryant, review of The Pursuit of Happyness, p. 43.

Fortune, September 18, 2006, Jia Lynn Yang, "Happyness for Sale," profile of Chris Gardner.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006, review of The Pursuit of Happyness, p. 272.

Library Journal, April 1, 2006, Elizabeth L. Winter, review of The Pursuit of Happyness, p. 103.

Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2006, review of The Pursuit of Happyness, p. 60.

San Francisco Chronicle, October 10, 2005, Marianne Costantinou, "Chris Gardner Has Pursued Happiness, from the Glide Soup Kitchen to the Big Screen," profile of Chris Gardner.

ONLINE

Internet Movie Database, http://ww.imdb.com/ (November 18, 2006).

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