I'll never forget the first time Hooks and I had our first big meeting together. We were meeting at the Johnson & Johnson headquarters. I'd never pitched for money before, and Hooks knew how to pitch and critique pitches with his eyes closed. I asked Hooks what time we should arrive at Johnson & Johnson. "20-minutes early," he told me. "Early enough so they know you're prepared. Not so early that you come across as desperate." I picked Hooks up at 6am the morning of our meeting and we drove a few hours to lovely New Brunswick, NJ. It was a frigid winter day and there was ice on the streets. We circled the block to ensure we knew exactly where to go for our meeting. Then I dropped Hooks at the local coffee shop while I parked the car. Back at the coffee shop, we prepared together. Hooks had a wonderful way of putting me at ease before The Global Good Fund's first major corporate pitch.
30 minutes before our scheduled meeting, we walked the one block to our destination. Walking one block took a while, as Hooks moved slowly and the wind did not blow in our favor. His winter coat was unbuttoned, flailing in the wind, and his backpack was slung over one shoulder and kept falling down. We must have looked helpless because people walking in the opposite direction offered to help us both. Always a trooper, Hooks smiled and said he was great. We eventually made it to our destination, albeit a bit disheveled. Upon reaching the corporate offices, we followed the instructions provided by Johnson & Johnson to enter the building. To our surprise, there was no Johnson & Johnson signage, nor was there a receptionist at the front desk as we'd expected. In fact, there was no front desk at all. This couldn't possibly be the right place. As the clock worked against us, I eventually spotted a postman and asked him where we were in relation to the Johnson & Johnson headquarters. The postman laughed. "There are multiple Johnson and Johnson headquarter buildings. They take up several blocks of real estate." He couldn't tell us which building was the one we needed, only that this location was an apartment building - decidedly not what we were looking for.
Hooks waited calmly by the curb ahead to get the car, which was conveniently parked across the street. It seemed to take forever to pay and get out of the lot and back to Hooks. We drove around the block trying to figure out which building was the right one. Hooks suggested we park again, so we did and I dug ferociously through my wallet to find change for the meter while Hooks slowly emerged from the car. Now we had 20 minutes until our meeting began. The closest Johnson & Johnson building was down the block and across the street. All I wanted to do was run, but that simply wasn't polite to leave my disabled board member hanging. I could tell Hooks was in complete discomfort. The wind blew his coat open and his backpack off his shoulder. My hair look liked a tornado had swirled through it and our cheeks were both bright red from the cold. We finally made it to the end of the block. The crosswalk said we had 14-seconds to cross. I started to walk, then realized that Hooks wasn't coming. "I can't make it across in that amount of time," he told me. So we waited together, both of us acknowledging that our meeting began in 10 minutes.
After what felt like hours, the crosswalk symbol finally turned white indicating that we had 40 seconds to cross. But Hooks was still out of breath. "You go ahead," he told me. I looked at him and asked, "Are you sure?" He said "yes" and I dashed across the street and raced up the stairs to the massive office building. I flew through the front doors, "Is this the Johnson & Johnson headquarters?" I asked while saying a silent prayer that we were in the right place. The man behind the lobby desk looked at me puzzled. "It is," he said. "Who are you looking for?" It turns out our meeting was in a building 3 blocks away. My heart sank. We would definitely be late. I thought to complain - my feet were freezing and hurt because I wasn't wearing proper walking shoes, I looked like I'd just survived a bad storm, and I just paid two hours for the parking meter, which would go to waste. Then I thought of Hooks. "The stairs..." I thought. I needed to get to him before Hooks reached the stairs required to enter the front of this office building.
As I turned around I saw Hooks victoriously on the top step just as the man at the front desk informed me that we needed to walk an additional three blocks.
I almost couldn't stand to tell Hooks the bad news. Hooks looked at me, imploring with his eyes that we were in the right place. I thought he was going to collapse at the top of the stairs. But he didn't. It turns out it took more willpower for me to tell Hooks the truth than it seemed to take for Hooks to deal with it. "The building we need to go to is several blocks away, Hooks." I'd never seen him walk this far or cover such inclined terrain in all these years. "Let's go," he told me. Now I was the one out of breath.
I was floored. Hooks composed himself, and then slowly, SLOWLY made it down the stairs. I am positive that Hooks must have been in agony, but he never let on. Hooks then walked 3 blocks, with a multitude of breaks, to our final destination. Needless to say, we made it to our meeting 20 minutes late instead of 20 minutes early. I fired the scheduler who put the wrong address in the calendar. And Hooks was a class act. Johnson & Johnson became The Global Good Fund's largest corporate donor for the third year in a row, thanks to the resilience of Hooks Johnston. Their support has lead to positively impacting and saving thousands of lives, including educating girls through Global Good Fund entrepreneurs in Africa, giving dignity to homeless people in California through a mobile shower unit, and helping disabled people get the care they need across the United States and abroad. Hooks literally changed the world because he persevered when pretty much anyone else would have given up.
Hooks was not only a founding board member of The Global Good Fund, but an incredible inspiration to young people like me across the world who are using entrepreneurship for good. His legacy lives on in the work we collectively do to create a better world. Rest in peace, Hooks.