SAN ANTONIO — Operation Homefront, a leading national nonprofit dedicated to serving America’s military families, has elected Dr. Emily Williams Knight, CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association and Education Foundation, to its national board of directors.
The daughter of military veterans and a former military spouse, Knight brings more than 20 years of global executive leadership expertise in several multi-national companies, success in building high performing teams, passion for winning and tireless work ethic to Operation Homefront.
“I am thrilled Emily will be joining our very talented board of directors,” said Brig Gen (ret) John I. Pray, Jr., President and CEO of Operation Homefront. “Widely recognized as an innovative leader at the state and national levels, Emily shares our deep and unwavering commitment to helping our military families in their time of need for all this very special and deserving group of our fellow citizens have done for all of us in our nation’s time of need.”
Knight oversees an association of 54,000 restaurants employing 1.4 million Texans, posting annual sales of $95 billion. In her first year as CEO, Knight was in the forefront of leading one of the most affected industries through the COVID-19 pandemic. Knight was recognized for her effective leadership, quickly securing waivers from Texas Governor Greg Abbott while also lobbying and securing federal support to help the restaurant and foodservice industries… and tens of thousands of workers… survive.
“I am honored to join Operation Homefront. As a proud military family member, I am eager to use my experience and connections to help provide a brighter future for this generation of military families who face unexpected financial struggles,” said Dr. Emily Williams Knight. “These families need us now, more than ever, and I am looking forward to supporting Operation Homefront’s critical mission.”
As a member of the Operation Homefront Board of Directors, Knight will provide direction to an organization that delivered $48 million in impacting programming to tens of thousands of military families facing financial hardships, particularly as they transition out of service back to their civilian communities.
“On behalf of our entire board, I want to welcome Emily to Operation Homefront,” said Uli Correa, chair of Operation Homefront’s board of directors. “We know she’ll be an incredible addition to our team and all look forward to working with her as we seek to expand our ability to give our amazing military families the opportunity to thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities – OUR communities – they have worked so hard to protect.”
Knight has more than 20 years of experience and success in national and global leadership positions. Prior to leading the TRA, Knight served as Managing Director of Higher Education North America at Study Group, a leading provider of international university education. Knight worked with top university leaders across the U.S. and Canada to build international student recruitment and education pathway programs. Her career includes senior leadership roles at Laureate and serving as President of Kendall College, a leader in hospitality and culinary arts education. During her time as Kendall’s president, Knight expanded access to culinary and hospitality education throughout the U.S., Latin America, and the Middle East. She worked closely with the Illinois legislature to advance the industry and partnered with the Mayor of Chicago, Choose Chicago, and the Illinois Restaurant Association to drive Chicago visitors to a record 50 million per year.
Knight led student recruitment for two of the top five hospitality schools in the world located in Switzerland: Les Roches and Glion. She has partnered with private equity firms, associations, and the U.S. government to build veteran and at-risk training programs. She is a steadfast advocate for military families leveraging her career to lean in and support this important community. Knight has extensive experience working with industry, workforce investment boards, and community colleges to create skills-based training programs designed to fill the growing number of restaurant and hospitality job openings.
Knight holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Walden University; an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Newbury College; a Master of Science in Management from Troy University in Alabama; a B.S. in Hospitality Administration from Boston University, where she was a Trustee Scholar and an A.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Newbury College, where she was a Presidential Scholar and captain of the women’s basketball team.
Dr. Knight was named the 2023 Most Admired CEOs by the Dallas Business Journal and to Nations Restaurant News 50 Most Influential Restaurant Executives in 2021 and 2022. Knight is a member of several boards, including API where she leverages her global experience and international education background. Knight also serves on the Texas Travel and Tourism Board, the University of North Texas School of Hospitality Advisory Board, and the Texas Business Roundtable. She is an adjunct faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University teaching courses in International Business, Management, Leadership and Consumer Marketing.
About Operation Homefront:
Operation Homefront is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so that they can thrive – not simply struggle to get by – in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity oversight groups, 85 percent of Operation Homefront expenditures go directly to programs that support tens of thousands of military families each year. Operation Homefront provides critical financial assistance, transitional and permanent housing, and family support services to prevent short-term needs from turning into chronic, long-term struggles. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the support from thousands of volunteers, Operation Homefront proudly serves America’s military families. For more information, visit OperationHomefront.org.
Erin Burgy, Senior Director, Integrated Public Relations
Erin.Burgy@OperationHomefront.org or (469) 934-7131