Whole Foods Market Hall of Fame

Our Hall of Fame program honors past Team Members or Board Members for their outstanding contributions to our company. Nominees, who are voted on by our Executive Team, have truly made a positive contribution to Whole Foods Market and no longer work for the company or any of its competitors. Without the vision and efforts of the following people, Whole Foods Market would not be what it is today.

William "Bill" Mackey Lex Alexander Peter Roy Michael Besançon David Matthis
Don Schaffer Chris Hitt Mark Skiles Edmund La Macchia Will Paradise
Jay Templeton Renee Lawson Hardy George Eckrich Roberta Lang Joe Rogoff
Craig Weller Jean-Claude Lurie Lee Valkenaar Bill Lombardi Margaret Wittenberg

Class of 2005

William “Bill” Mackey

William Bill Mackey Father and mentor of co-founder and Co-CEO John Mackey, Bill provided much of the original capital for SaferWay, the predecessor to Whole Foods Market. A successful businessman, Bill provided sound advice, business savvy and leadership for the young company. Bill served on the board of directors from 1980 until 1994 and was beloved by those who knew him.

Don Schaffer

Don Schaffer Don was also one of the original investors in our company. Currently a successful pediatrician who also performs stand-up comedy on the side, Don served on our board of directors for 10-plus years and was appreciated for his sense of humor and passion for our company.

Jay Templeton

Jay Templeton Although SaferWay lost half of its original investment in the first year, Jay believed in the potential of a natural foods supermarket. The young businessman was also adopting a more natural lifestyle himself, and was willing to gamble investment capital that allowed the company to relocate to a larger location (the original Lamar store in Austin, Texas) and eventually to expand to its second location (the Crossroads store). Jay served on our board of directors for nine years.

Craig Weller

Craig Weller Craig was co-owner (along with Mark Skiles) of Clarksville Natural Grocery, a competitor of SaferWay. When the two companies merged in 1980 to form Whole Foods Market, Craig and Mark brought with them their strong customer service ethic, which has remained with us ever since. Known especially for his extraordinary work ethic, Craig opened our first store outside of Texas and Louisiana, in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1988.Until he retired from Whole Foods Market in 1999, Craig worked tirelessly and served in many roles, including President of Texas Health Distributors (now the Southwest Distribution Center).

2006

Lex Alexander

Lex Alexander Lex was our “Food Guy,” whose name and prose graced many of our Whole Foods Market brand labels. Others know him as the founder of Wellspring Grocery, which WFM acquired in 1991. Lex’s legacy goes way beyond Wellspring and our private label products, however. As John put it, “Pre-Lex, we were just a natural foods store.” Lex, with his passion for good food, helped introduce artisan foods to Whole Foods Market and supported creating an environment and product base that attracts our “foodie” customers. This is one of the elements that differentiates us from other grocery stores. Lex left Whole Foods Market in 2001, and continues to influence the direction of artisan food culture in the U.S.

Chris Hitt

Chris joined Whole Foods Market in 1985 and made a lasting contribution to our company by helping create our Declaration of Interdependence. Chris was known as the “go-to guy,” because whenever we needed leadership through a merger (such as with Bread & Circus and Fresh Fields) or in a new situation (such as starting a new California region) Chris was the one we called on. During the 15 years Chris spent at Whole Foods Market, he moved from Texas to California to Massachusetts to Virginia and then back to Austin. He served as Regional President in several regions and was President of WFM from 1998 to 2000.

Renee Lawson Hardy

Renee Lawson Hardy If John Mackey is considered the “father” of our company, Renee would definitely be its mother. Renee was the co-founder of SaferWay with John in 1978. John admits that without her encouragement and enthusiasm the venture would not have gone far. The legacy of her touch is seen every day in the beauty of our stores. And, according to John, the culture of love, joy and fun in our stores today is a result of the heart that Renee infused into the very first store. Although she was only with SaferWay and Whole Foods Market until 1984, she left quite a legacy!

Jean-Claude Lurie

Jean-Claude Lurie A man of deep passion and convictions, Jean-Claude was a Team Member for 16 years from 1984 until his untimely passing in 2000. After serving in store leadership, he became our VP of Real Estate, in charge of site selection and acquisition. Jean-Claude was involved in the development of 79 store locations. “If you knew him you loved him,” says John Mackey.

Peter Roy

Peter Roy Peter was President and Chief Operating Officer of our company from 1993 to 1998, a period of extremely rapid growth. He first interacted with our company through the Natural Foods Network which he founded in 1984, later joining our company in 1988 when we acquired Whole Food Company, which he ran in New Orleans. John Mackey considers Peter a pioneer of the natural foods industry, but says his lasting contribution to our company is prepared foods, which he consistently defended and championed for its possibilities. Since leaving the company, Peter has continued on his path as an entrepreneur and business advisor to companies in the healthy lifestyle industry.

Mark Skiles

Mark Skiles Mark was co-owner (along with Craig Weller) of Clarksville Natural Grocery, a competitor of SaferWay. When the two companies merged in 1980 to form Whole Foods Market, Craig and Mark brought with them their strong customer service ethic, which has remained with us ever since. Whenever you walk a customer to a product, think of Mark! Mark opened the Shepherd store in Houston (our first store outside of Austin), hiring such notables as Mark “Flash” Dixon and Sandra “Mama” Himes. He left the company in 1986 and opened Pizza Nizza in Austin.

Class of 2008

George Eckrich
George Eckrich Although he had an MBA from the University of Michigan, George’s most influential education occurred during the 1970s when he signed on as a baker’s apprentice at Café Konditorei Glue in Hanover, Germany. Enamored of whole-grain artisan breads that were increasingly scarce in the U.S., George learned the Old World baker’s art and eventually moved to Austin, Texas, in 1980 to start Sourdough: A European Bakery. In 1981, he approached Whole Foods Market’s founders about opening a Sourdough Bakery venue within Crossroads, our second store which was to open in 1982. Sourdough’s hearty baked goods, made with organic whole grains, flaxseeds and unbleached flours, were an immediate hit with health-conscious customers as well as those looking for the heft and great flavor of European-style breads. After that, all of our new stores had a Sourdough affiliation. Operating for over a decade in a mutually beneficial partnership, Whole Foods Market eventually acquired a majority interest in Sourdough in 1992, and hired George as the Southwest Regional Bakery Coordinator. Retiring from WFM in 2000, George founded the Dr. Kracker line of artisanal flatbreads, which are now carried in many WFM stores. George remains both a loyal customer and vendor.

Class of 2014

Lee Valkenaar

Lee Valkenaar Lee Valkenaar has held various positions with Whole Foods Market since 1987, including Store Team Leader, Vice President and President of the Southwest Region. Lee served as president of the Mid-Atlantic Region from 2001 to 2004. From 2004 to 2008, he served as Executive Vice President of Global Support, focusing on purchasing, marketing, and Team Member services. Since 2008, he has served as the Co-Chairman of the Board for Whole Planet Foundation. Over the years, Lee has found it deeply fulfilling to be part of something so positive, powerful and larger than himself.

Michael Besançon

Michael Besancon Michael was a Team Member at Whole Foods Market for over 17 years, but he has an even longer history in the natural and organic foods industry. While serving as a Regional President, Michael chaired our Green Mission Task Force, helping our company lead the charge for environmentally sustainable practices. Through the years at Whole Foods Market, Michael has learned that "anybody can build a store, anybody can put the product in it – but what makes Whole Foods Whole Foods is the 80,000 people who work, who commit, who are passionate, who are making a difference in the world. Don't ever stop being you, don't ever stop being the best, and don't ever stop making a difference in the world."

Class of 2017

Edmund La Macchia

Edmund La Macchia Edmund La Macchia is a 36-year veteran of the organic food industry, and was a Whole Foods Market Team Member for the last 26 years until he retired in 2017. Edmund joined WFM in 1990, bringing a deep personal commitment to regenerative agriculture by expanding the reach of organic and sustainably produced food. During his time at WFM, he served as Distribution Team Leader and Regional Coordinator in the Northern California Region, Global Produce Coordinator, and in 2005, became the Global Vice President of Procurement Perishables. Edmund has also served on the board of Protected Harvest, the Organic Trade Association, The Global Animal Partnership, and has worked with many organic advocacy organizations. “One of the things I am proudest of in my life is having had the opportunity to contribute to the furthering of the WFM mission. WFM has helped me become the best person I can be, and I will take the spirit of WFM with me for the rest of my life – it will always be in my heart,” Edmund says of his time at WFM.

Roberta Lang

Roberta Lang Roberta Lang was most recently our Global Vice President of Legal and General Counsel for Whole Foods Market, until she retired in 2017. She started her career in 1974 running Rainbow Natural Foods in South Bend, Indiana. In 1998, she began working for WFM as the Legal/TMS Coordinator in the Midwest Region, moving to Austin in 2000. At that time she was the only practicing attorney in the company, assembling a network of outside counsel who worked together to build WFM’s first internal legal team. She believes that a strong, inspired culture and conscious leadership are the cornerstones of greatness, and has provided mentorship and strategic leadership throughout her 18 years with WFM. She has received the Profiles in Power Award from the Austin Business Journal, the Magna Stella Award from the General Counsel Forum, and Outstanding General Counsel by the National Law Journal. Additionally, she is an innovator in women's leadership issues, and co-leads a Texas women general counsel forum with the University of Texas Center for Women in Law. Roberta is also a Board Member of the Whole Planet Foundation, Animal Compassion Foundation, and Retail Institute Leaders Association/Retail Litigation Center, and serves on the Board of Directors of Rodale Institute. “When I was looking to return to my organic roots, I knew I wanted to work for a company whose culture was rich, whose Core Values were real, and that sought to enrich humanity every day,” Roberta says. “There was only one company that held all of those values, and that was Whole Foods Market.”

Bill Lombardi

Bill Lombardi Bill Lombardi retired in 2016 after an illustrious 31-year career at Whole Foods Market. His legacy is one of hustle: retailing until you’re proud! Bill worked at a number of stores in the Southern Pacific Region and mentored many Team Members to become leaders within the company. Bill was first hired at Mrs. Gooch’s as a 3rd Assistant Manager at the West Los Angeles store in 1985. Bill’s leadership abilities were quickly noted, and he was promoted that same year to Store Team Leader at the Sherman Oaks store, marking the beginning of his trajectory in the SP region. Bill was also at the helm of our stores in Beverly Hills, Torrance, Santa Monica, the Pacific Coast Highway, and finally Santa Barbara, where he spent the last six years of his career helping make it one of the gems in the SP crown.

David Matthis

David Matthis David Matthis started his career at Whole Foods Market in 1978, after visiting the Safer Way Natural Foods on 8th and Rio Grande. When co-founder John Mackey heard that Matthis had experience in the natural foods industry, he asked if he could handle vitamin ordering. He agreed to come aboard for two weeks, working on a “two weeks at a time” basis for months. The rest, as they say, is history. A lifelong Team Member, he has unsurprisingly held more than a dozen positions at the company, including Regional President of the Southwest Region, and his actions and guidance have shaped the history of WFM in innumerable ways. David sums up his expansive career at WFM with the following: "What a ride! I can’t imagine my life without our amazing WFM family. Working to change the world while having fun with so many incredible people has been an extraordinary experience."

Will Paradise

Will Paradise Will worked with Whole Foods Market for almost 25 years, starting as a Grocery Team Member with Bread & Circus Hadley in 1990 prior to the merger between Bread & Circus Hadley and Whole Foods Market. After joining Whole Foods Market, he was the Store Team Leader of three stores prior to being promoted to Regional Vice President in the Northern California Region. He was the Southwest Regional President from 2000-2004 and served as the Rocky Mountain Regional President from 2004-2014. After stepping down from that role, Will has continued to support Whole Foods Market on various projects. Will not only talks the Whole Foods Market philosophy, he lives his life every day asking how he can make a difference in the world. On his time with WFM, he says: “So much of what I have has come through my growth and time and tenure at WFM. I am a much better person thanks to the influence of the great people I’ve worked with at Whole Foods Market.”

Joe Rogoff

Joe Rogoff Joe began his natural foods career in Northern California in 1974. Working at co-ops, small retailers, and running his own local foraging/delivery business, he did just about every job in grocery. This prepared Joe for store leadership roles, and he eventually became general manager of two small chains. In 2000, Food For Thought, three natural grocery stores in Sonoma County, merged into Whole Foods Market, bringing Joe along with them. His strengths were quickly noticed and, before long, he was selected as Regional Vice President of Operations and later Purchasing in the Northern California Region. In 2010, he moved to Seattle as Regional President of the Pacific Northwest. Joe’s professional passions include mentorship, excellence, and purpose. Of his 2016 retirement from his current role, Joe says, “When I focus on what I will leave, I know that what I will create will be worth saving. And by paying attention to legacy, I know I have the responsibility to make the most of my time, to serve and support, and to contribute what I have to give.”

Margaret Wittenberg

Margaret Wittenberg Margaret’s career in the natural and organic foods industry began in 1977 with Sunseed Natural Foods in Wisconsin, a small store she co-owned with her husband, Terry. In 1981, she joined Whole Foods Market as one of the company’s original Team Members, along with Terry, just four months after it opened in Austin, Texas. Margaret retired from WFM in 2016 as Global Vice President of Quality Standards, a position she held since 1998. Currently serving as a member of the Board of Trustees for the American Botanical Council, Margaret also served on advisory panels and boards of trustees throughout her career for many key domestic and international organizations related to seafood sustainability, farm animal welfare, agricultural genetic engineering, and sustainable and organic agriculture, including the USDA National Organic Standards Board. In 2005, Margaret received the Rachel Carson Award from the National Audubon Society for her 30+ years of work championing organic agriculture, sustainability and the environment. In 2014 she was inducted into New Hope Natural Media’s Hall of Legends for her lifelong contributions advancing sustainability and global health. Honored in 2013 by Women in Naturals as one of the “9 Wonder Women of the Natural Industry”, she also was hailed in 2014 as one of “The Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” by Fortune and Food & Wine. Margaret also authored many comprehensive cooking reference books incorporating natural foods, sustainability, and wellness. Her most current, published by Ten Speed Press in 2013, is The Essential Good Food Guide: The Complete Resource for Buying and Using Whole Grains and Specialty Flours, Heirloom Fruit and Vegetables, Meat and Poultry, Seafood, and More.