Tom Gathers

Tom Gathers '77, senior vice president in the Darden Restaurant Group, will present “A Letter to Kate: Lessons for a New Leader” on April 4 at 6:00 p.m. in Eberly Auditorium. Taking the form of a letter to his daughter, his presentation will address leadership qualities needed by young people entering the workforce.

Darden Restaurants Inc. is the largest full-service restaurant company in the world, with nearly 1,900 restaurants in the United States and Canada. Darden businesses include Olive Garden, Red Lobster, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Eddie V's, and LongHorn Steakhouse.

Gathers, a native of Sharon, Pa., has been instrumental in Darden's recruitment of IUP graduates. Of all employers, LongHorn Steakhouse hired the most IUP graduating seniors in the 2006–2007 school year. Gathers also serves on the advisory council for the Hospitality Management Department and on the Foundation for IUP board of directors. He received IUP's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009 in recognition of his successful career and dedication to the hospitality industry.

Gathers earned a bachelor's degree in government and public service from IUP and was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He earned a master's degree in organizational training from the University of Miami. He has received an honorary doctorate of food service from the National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers.

Starting his career as a restaurant manager in Ohio, Gathers advanced through the ranks and in 1981 joined Darden Restaurants, where he directed training and development efforts at Olive Garden, Red Lobster International, Casa Gallardo, York Steakhouses, China Coast, and LeAnn Chin's.

In 1990, he became senior vice president of human resources for UNO Restaurant Corp., a Boston-based company that operates the 170-unit Pizzeria UNO casual dining chain. In 1998 he joined Atlanta-based RARE Hospitality as executive vice president of human resources and was responsible for the company's employment, training and development, employee relations and compensation and benefit functions. RARE Hospitality, the parent company of LongHorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille, and Bugaboo Creek, is now part of Darden Restaurants.

Gathers is past president of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers. He serves as chair of the board for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and on the advisory boards for the University of New Hampshire, Suffolk University, and Gwinnett Technical College. He is a featured speaker at national and international restaurant shows.

Gathers and his wife, Melanie Overman Gathers '78, are the parents of two daughters.