By Jenn Hallgren
On May 19, Cumberland County College graduates and the community will be addressed at commencement by this year’s keynote speaker, CEO of Wawa, Chris Gheysens. Before becoming the head of the flock, Gheysens grew up in Vineland and worked at his father’s carwash while attending local schools such as St. Mary’s in East Vineland and St. Augustine Preparatory in Richland, NJ.
He then went across the river to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from Villanova University and later went on to earn his Master’s of Business Administration at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “I have a fondness for Villanova and St. Joe’s,” Gheysens told Mainline Today in a 2013 interview, “They helped shape who I am in a lot of ways.”
Gheysens became the Chief Executive Officer for Wawa in 2013. He began his career with Wawa in 1997 as its Chief Financial and Administrative Officer and went on to become the President in 2012. Gheysens told Nj.com, “South Jersey is a big part of Wawa, and it is definitely a part of me.”
As CCC approaches their 50th anniversary, Wawa will have celebrated 52 years of service on Wawa Day, which is on April 16. The founding family of Wawa, the Woods family, donated the land on which CCC was built and still owns half of the company.
During a press release announcing Gheysens as the keynote speaker for this year’s commencement, interim president Shelly Schneider stated, “Mr. Gheysens and Wawa are two great Cumberland County success stories, a great inspiration for our new graduates and the community.”
Although his footprint covers 645 stores across the tri-state area, Maryland, Virginia, and now central Florida, Gheysens still calls New Jersey his home—South Jersey actually—and enjoys visiting the Jersey Shore with his wife, Patricia Gheysens, and four children. “I grew up in South Jersey, spent my summers in Sea Isle,” Gheysens told Philly Magazine in 2012 when he was about to take the “lead goose” position replacing then CEO Howard Stoeckel. Just as South Jersey is loyal to Wawa, Wawa is loyal to South Jersey.
Commencement will be held at Cumberland County College on May 19 at 6PM and is open to the public.