Former Chairman & CEO of Sonic to Speak at Wilson Lecture in Business Economics

J. Clifford Hudson to speak on Feb. 13, at The College of Wooster

February 5, 2019   /  

WOOSTER, Ohio — J. Clifford Hudson, former chairman and CEO of Sonic Corporation, will present “Master of None: Why a Liberal Arts Education is the Best Preparation for a Satisfying Career” at the James R. Wilson Lecture in Business Economics on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at The College of Wooster. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Gault Lecture Hall of the Ruth W. Williams Hall of Life Sciences (931 College Mall).  A dessert reception will follow.

Drawing on the theme of his book due to be published next year, Hudson will address how his successful and unexpected path at Sonic is a case study that illustrates why he believes that creative thinking and strong analytical skills, fostered by a liberal arts education, are the best preparation for a long and satisfying career as a public-company CEO.

A graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Georgetown University Law Center, Hudson practiced law for several years before being hired as head of the legal department at Sonic Corporation in 1984. He later became president and CEO (1995), serving for 23 years before retiring in 2018 as only the second person to lead the company through most of its 65 years.

He led Sonic’s growth from nearly 1,500 drive-ins in 27 states with sales of $905 million to 3,600 drive-ins in 45 states with sales of $4.5 billion. During his leadership, Sonic became recognized as a champion for diversity and inclusion as well as a strong supporter of public education and community organizations across the state and nation.

Hudson is a member of the board of trustees of the Ford Foundation, and a past chairman of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In addition, he served as chairman of the board of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation for seven years after being appointed by then President Bill Clinton. He received the 2004 Sliver Plate – Foodservice Operator of the Year award from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association.

The James R. Wilson Lecture Series in Business Economics brings business and financial leaders to Wooster’s campus to share their insights with students, faculty, and the broader community. The series is supported by the James R. Wilson Fund for Business Economics, which was established in 2001 through a gift from James and Linda Wilson. Previous speakers in the series include William Espey, former brand voice lead at Chipotle; Robbie Bach, former senior executive at Microsoft; Howard Putnam, CEO of Southwest Airlines; Donald Kohn, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve; Michelle Stacy, former president of Keurig, Inc.; Marshall Larsen, CEO of Goodrich; Walt Bettinger, CEO of Charles Schwab; and Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel.

Additional information about the lecture is available by phone (330-263-2302) or email (