It’s easy to see why REGGIE JOHNSON ’85 would make a great mentor. The Baxter Healthcare executive instantly puts you at ease with his open manner and warm laugh. He’s quick with a lighthearted story – about growing up in the Chicago area or his football exploits – which he typically ends it with a serious piece of advice or life lesson. And it doesn’t hurt that he looks like he could still step out on the field and break one for a touchdown.
For more than a dozen years, Johnson has worked with 100 Black Men of Chicago, volunteering his time and talents to enhance educational and economic opportunities for African American students. He first heard about 100 Black Men of Chicago from a friend and began spending a few afternoons a week at Michele Clark Middle School on the west side of the city. “I saw a lack of role models in our community,” says Johnson. “It didn’t take long for me to find my way with 100 Black Men of Chicago.”
The high-energy Johnson, who was a biology major and running back at Winona State, expanded his role to serve as mentoring chair, recruit fellow corporate executives as mentors, fundraise, and, more recently, work with fellow chapter members to coordinate a college recruiting fair for African American and Hispanic students that may be the largest in Illinois.
Like many of his fellow mentors, Johnson is busy with work and family responsibilities. But he notes that 100 Black Men of Chicago is making a big difference just by sharing time and providing an example to kids who may have limited opportunities. “A sense of duty and responsibility calls most of us to participate,” says Johnson, “but watching the kids, actively engaged and learning, is what keeps you there.”