Aviation Leadership Breakfast

2009 Speaker Biographies

Franklin Graham

Kyle Petty
Auto Racing Icon

Kyle Petty is an auto racing icon, a champion of philanthropy and one of the most popular personalities in all of sports. His name and mega-watt smile will always connect him with NASCAR's most famous family. To the world, his father Richard Petty was, and still is, "the King," the greatest champion in NASCAR history. Kyle's grandfather, Lee, was larger-than-life in the early days of stock car racing. To a young boy growing up in Level Cross, N.C., and places like Daytona, Charlotte and Talladega, they were simply Dad and Grandpa. Kyle is as much a product of racing as he is of his famous forebears. For more than three decades as a driver, owner and media commentator, Kyle has put his heart and soul into doing what a Petty does best -- compete with class and raise the game of everyone around him.

Today, it is Kyle Petty who is larger than life. Inspired by the vision of their late son Adam, Kyle and his wife Patty have in turn inspired the compassion and generosity of the NASCAR community and corporate sponsors nationwide to help those in need. Their crowning achievement is the Victory Junction Gang Camp near Level Cross, where nearly 5,000 children with life threatening or chronic illnesses find hope, laughter, friendship and adventure every year. Founded in 2000 in partnership with family friend and racing enthusiast Paul Newman, Victory Junction Gang Camp has proven wrong every "expert" who counseled the Pettys against the undertaking, citing the immense cost and complexity of building and operating a camp for kids with special requirements. The camp has not only become a shining example of what character and commitment can achieve, it has been so successful that a second Victory Junction Gang Camp is planned for the Kansas City area.

An avid motorcyclist, Kyle also founded the Chick-Fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America to benefit children’s causes. Every year hundreds of NASCAR fans, drivers and crew members jump on their motorcycles to join Kyle in visiting local children's hospitals and other charities. To date, the Chic-Fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride has raised over $14 million and is the most successful philanthropic event staged by any person in the NASCAR family. Kyle has been named or nominated by NASCAR, plus various media outlets and corporations, as Person of the Year, Father of the Year, Sportsman of the Year and the USA's Most Caring Athlete. He is an inductee in both the Philanthropy Hall of Fame and the Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

When Kyle isn't behind the wheel of a racecar or serving humanitarian or philanthropic causes, he can be seen and heard on television, radio and the Internet. He is a featured analyst on TNT's live NASCAR coverage and hosts a variety of programs for the Speed Channel, in addition to co-hosting the weekly radio show, "Fast Talk" on the Performance Racing Network. Kyle is also a popular speaker available through the Washington Speakers Bureau, the premier agency representing America's most highly sought-after public figures.

Dan T. Cathy
Dan T. Cathy
President and Chief Operating Officer

As president of one of the nation's largest family owned businesses, Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy represents the next generation of leadership for the Atlanta-based quick-service chicken restaurant chain founded by his father, S. Truett Cathy. Eager to incorporate his own skills and talents into the business, Dan has taken an unconventional, yet personally and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.

Since 2001, Dan has served as the president and chief operating officer of the 1,250-plus unit chain, but he also has personally challenged himself with upholding Chick-fil-A’s efforts to provide genuine, heartfelt hospitality, and ensuring that customers chain wide have an exceptional dining experience when visiting a Chick-fil-A restaurant. In his quest to provide customers with “second-mile” service (exceeding even the highest expectations of a typical fast-food restaurant), Dan has defined a special role for himself – humbly saying, “I work in customer service.”

Rather than leading from his corporate office in Atlanta, Dan chooses to spend the majority of his time traveling to the chain’s growing family of restaurants and interacting with Chick fil-A’s committed team of restaurant Operators and team members. His actions stem from a belief that working in the field provides a clearer understanding of the ever-evolving wants and needs of Chick-fil-A customers, and leading from the front line also enables him to personally convey his servant spirit to the chain’s 45,000-plus employees.

The majority of his travels include participating in grand opening ceremonies for new Chick-fil-A restaurants. In yet another example of how he keeps in tune with customers and employees, Dan attended more than 40 restaurant openings last year and spent 23 nights camping out in restaurant parking lots along with hundreds of customers vying for a chance to win free Chick-fil-A for a year as part of a special customer-focused promotion the chain conducts in conjunction with new restaurant openings … “I’m having the most fun I have ever had at Chick-fil-A.”

Four major marketplace awards recently have affirmed the commitment and performance of Chick-fil-A Operators and team members. In 2006 Chick-fil-A received Restaurant & Institutions magazine’s “Choice in Chains” award for the 12th time in 13 years. Additionally, in 2004, Chick-fil-A was recognized as the “Best Drive-Thru in America” in QSR Magazine’s Drive-Thru Time Study; was honored with Fast Company magazine’s inaugural “Customer First” award and was the highest rated quick-service chain in the South in J.D. Power and Associate’s Customer Satisfaction survey.

Dan's nearly lifelong career at Chick-fil-A began at age nine as he sang songs for customers and did radio commercials for the chain's original "Dwarf House" restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Georgia Southern University, Dan returned to Chick-fil-A where he served as director of operations – opening more than 50 new Chick-fil-A restaurants throughout the country. As Chick-fil-A continued to grow, so did Dan's responsibilities with the company. His steady rise through the ranks of senior director of operations, vice president of operations, executive vice president, and most recently, president, is a testament to his dedication to the Chick-fil-A brand and its long-held principles and traditions.

As dedicated to Chick-fil-A as he is, Dan also finds time to give generously of his time and efforts in the community. Following is just a partial list of his awards, affiliations and associations:

  • Member, Board of Trustees, Berry College
  • Member, Board of Advisors, Berry College's Campbell School of Business
  • Member, Board of Councilors of The Carter Center
  • Member of the New Hope Baptist Church (and trumpet player in the church band)
  • Member, Foundation of Gordon College
  • Member, Board of Advisors, Eagle Ranch
  • Member of the International Society of Business Fellows
  • Board Member, Junior Achievement of Georgia (and volunteer at Tri-Cities High School in College Park, Ga. since 1998)
  • Recipient of the Buckhead Rotary Humanitarian Award – 2002
  • Inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame – 2003
  • Honorary Doctorate Degree from the State University of West Georgia
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humanities Degree from Anderson College - 2005
And in his "spare" time, Dan has completed the owner/management course at Harvard Business School, is a type-rated pilot in both the CJ2+ and the Falcon 50-4. He is a member of the Chick-fil-A corporate flight department who regularly flies over 400 hours per year. He has run in and completed numerous marathons in Atlanta, Orlando, Los Angeles, Boston and New York. Additionally, Dan is a passionate trumpet player and an avid motorcyclist.

A native of Jonesboro, Georgia, Dan has been married to the former Rhonda Palmer (whom he met while in the 1st grade at age 6) for more than 30 years, and has two sons, Andrew and Ross.

His personal passion is to see the fulfillment of the Chick-fil-A Corporate Purpose: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.