A career in the service of others

As the newest staff member of Special Olympics Massachusetts, I’m probably the least qualified to write adequately about someone who’s retiring after 23 years of service. Here’s my justification: Anyone who’s heard Bob Johnson speak for five minutes has a pretty good understanding of Bob. Why is this? Well it’s not because he has nothing to say, trust me, but quite simply because Special Olympics is in Bob’s DNA, and it’s something he’s got to share constantly with the world. If you ask Bob about it, even after all he’s done for Special Olympics, he’s honestly uncertain if he’s not gotten more out of the movement than he’s given–that’s a fact. I’m starting to agree with him. How do you quantify inspiration? Certainly not in meetings or in hours, nor in dollars and cents. Look any Special Olympics athlete in the eyes and you’ll see courage, look at any coach or any volunteer and you’ll see dedication and commitment. Bob’s done this innumerable times over his career, so yeah, I can see what gets him up in the morning–unquantifiable inspiration… Special Olympics.

Inspiration fuels a passion of his that’s on display whether he’s addressing a crowd at summer games, bestowing a medal to an athlete, or simply having a casual conversation in the lunch room–the man can’t hide it. He truly has loved, continues to devote time to, and will forever cherish Special Olympics.

I first met Bob only months ago. I was applying for a job with SOMA back in April. If you’d have asked me then, I’d have told you that a guy like Bob would probably retire at around 105 and then telecommute from Heaven on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During our “20-30-minute interview” we (Bob did most of the talking) spoke for about an hour-and-a-half. I’ve worked at a couple of places in my young career, different jobs, different companies, different fields, but I can say without question that I’ve never met an executive like Mr. Johnson. Ask a lot of other people, I’m sure they’ll tell you they’ve never met a friend quite like him either. When our athletes get a medal from Bob, the look on their faces seems something like getting an award from the Pope, the President, and Tom Brady all rolled into one on the same day… not that Bob shares any similar traits (He’s a bit less athletic than Tom.)

How many presidents and CEO’s do you know who help unload trucks, or who can be found mopping the floor of their facility after hours? Bob’s left a lasting impression on Special Olympics Massachusetts, and yes some big shoes to be filled as well, but through his passion, his integrity and his guidance, he’s laid down a template and foundation for future generations in the movement. His has been a career, and a life, in the service of others.

Best wishes to you, Ellen and the entire Johnson family.


Chris Richie

P.S. While Bob has indeed officially announced his retirement in 2013, let’s be honest, he’s going to be wearing his Special Olympics Massachusetts gear on every vacation. We’re not losing an extraordinary leader, but rather gaining one of the very best global ambassadors!


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