Johnson & Wales names new president

Dr. Robert Mock of Lexington, Ky., will be the new head of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
Dr. Robert Mock of Lexington, Ky., will be the new head of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. Mark Cornelison

There are a few things on Robert Mock Jr.’s resume that might surprise you.

The vice president of student affairs at the University of Kentucky will leave Lexington for Charlotte in September as the new president of the Johnson & Wales University campus in Charlotte. He replaces Art Gallagher, who left in November to be vice president of Novant Health Foundation.

While Mock’s career has been focused on university administration, with a doctorate in education, he also has background in food service. He worked his way through college with jobs at Beatrice Foods and Borden, both large food makers, and later worked for PepsiCo in St. Louis. At the University of Arkansas, the food service operation was under his department, and he worked with campus food services in Kentucky, as well.

Mock, 49, also has a military record: After Sept. 11, 2001, he joined the Army National Guard.

“I felt so motivated to help out,” he said. He already had a doctorate, but he went through basic training at age 35 and spent 8 years as a military hospital administrator in Arkansas, leaving as a captain. He hopes to start an ROTC chapter at JWU and encourage veteran enrollment.

“I have a serving mentality,” he said.

JWU announced Friday that Mock will start Sept. 30. Tarun Malik, who led the campus during the national search for Gallagher’s replacement, will return to his previous position as vice president of the Charlotte campus.

Since opening in 2004 in the Gateway Village area of uptown, JWU’s Charlotte campus, one of four around the country, has been a source of pride for the city. The building, the first culinary education center the university had built from scratch, was a part of broadening the uptown district away from the Tryon Street corridor. Although it offers degrees in many areas, including business administration and hospitality services, it’s the culinary and baking programs that get the most attention.

In the 11 years the campus has been open, JWU culinary students in white jackets and neckerchiefs have become familiar sights around town, with many working in restaurants and food businesses. The campus has 2,200 students from 45 states and 12 countries.

Gallagher was named president of JWU’s Charlotte campus before the school even opened in 2004. Known for his signature bow ties, he quickly became a familiar presence around the city, hosting special events at the school, turning up at civic and social events, and encouraging faculty involvement in community organizations.

Mock also expects to be active in Charlotte community life. He currently sits on the board of the Urban League in Lexington and was on the statewide Goodwill board in Arkansas. He also was a YMCA basketball coach with his kids, a 15-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.

“Expect to see me out there,” he said. “Expect to see me out there very soon.”

On his visit to Charlotte to interview for the JWU job, he visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A slot car player as a kid, he’s quick to note that he finished fourth in his heat on his visit.

His wife, Bethany, a claims representative for the Social Security Administration, hasn’t visited Charlotte yet. “She trusts me a lot,” he said.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis