The next time you drive past the Chipotle Mexican Grill on South Main Street near the southwest corner of campus, you can boast a bit of trivia: The fast-casual chain’s financial chief is a former Redbird.

Jack Hartung ’79, M.B.A. ’80 is chief financial officer at Chipotle. After 18 years at McDonald’s, Hartung moved over to Chipotle in 2002, when the chain had just over 200 restaurants. Now, after a 2006 initial public offering that Hartung helped lead, Chipotle operates more than 1,300 locations, and Hartung himself recently landed in the No. 12 spot on The Wall Street Journal’s first-ever Best CFO rankings.

Hartung always loved working with numbers. In middle school, he relished the chance to win a math competition that let him teach class for a day. “That motivated the heck out of me,” he says.

“Even when I was a little kid in grade school, those things that most kids hated doing, I enjoyed doing,” Hartung said. “That kind of logical, analytical thinking always appealed to me.”

His brother was studying accounting, so Hartung did the same, only at Illinois State. He met his wife, Nancy (Flessor) ’78, M.S. ’79, on campus, and he was part of the Student Accounting Society and played intramural sports. But his double major – accounting and economics – kept him pretty busy. He got a job at one of the “Big 8” major accounting firms after graduation.

“I just loved that idea, of the very welcoming, very comfortable environment at ISU, yet I got this great degree and companies wanted to hire someone from that program,” Hartung said.

Hartung almost didn’t take the job at Chipotle, because of concerns about relocating his large family of five children to Denver, where the company is based. But Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle, suggested he try commuting from Chicago once a week to see how it felt. “It was a hard decision,” he said. “Now, it’s been 10 years.”

Hartung says he’s proudest of his work to strengthen the business of Chipotle so it can accomplish its larger goals of selling naturally raised meat and local and organically grown produce – what it calls “Food With Integrity.” This year, for example, Chipotle plans to serve more than 10 million pounds of locally grown produce for the second year in a row.

Hartung, now 55, said he became instantly enamored with Chipotle, which was “different in every way in the way it thought about food. It was more hip. It was this irreverent brand.”

“I’ve got more energy now than I did in my 30s,” he said. “A lot of that comes from working at Chipotle.”

Hartung’s visits back to campus have slowed a bit now that his son, Chris ’06, has graduated. But the 2006 College of Business Hall of Fame inductee said he’s anxious to eat at the Chipotle on South Main, across the street from his old stomping grounds.

Hartung will host an Illinois State University Alumni Association reception, featuring President Al Bowman, on September 18 in Denver. You can register online by September 11.

“The fact that I can do something and give back to ISU would be a privilege,” he said.

Ryan Denham can be reached at