Speech: Tom Hoog, 2015 Legacy Honoree

KEITH BURTON: I am really honored to be here to provide remarks for our first winner Tom Hoog. I had the pleasure of working for Tom. I remember there was a time on many mornings when you could find him, and I reminded him of this today. In the Garden Restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

He was there entertaining clients and guests who came in for power breakfast. He met his leadership team very often in that location. He sized up new recruits to Hill & Knowlton. And he was always sketching out the future of Hill & Knowlton, the global firm he led here in the US in a much larger way.

He never asked during that period those of us who work with him, what does the client want? That was always in the heart of his thinking but instead, he asked the question, what does the future want? And then he answered it always with a great wit, with wisdom, and what I always felt was a steely determination to do more and to be more.

By surrounding himself with world-class men and women who challenged the status quo of his firm. And by fueling the engine of change with a high-octane mentoring spirit. If you ask him today, he will tell you that he’s loved every minute of a career that has placed him center stage.

National politics with President Bill Clinton and US Senator Gary Hart. As well as working on the presidential campaigns of Senators Robert Kennedy and George McGovern. He’s counseled countless CEOs, the global mayors of our world’s great cities. And served on the advisory boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and the Vietnam War Memorial.

He was named by PRWeek as one of the top 100 most influential public relations practitioners of the 20th century. Honored by the New York chapter of PRSA with the John W. Hill award for excellence in public relations. And in 2004, Tom was chosen by PRSA with a penultimate award, the Gold Anvil.

But he will be the first to tell you, and I’m sure he will tonight. That while he values honors and awards, he strives more for the moments that compel the human spirit. For Tom, success means living the life of your heart by developing other people. Today as in days before his love and his passion is for teaching a new generation of leaders.

At George Mason University, the Wharton School of Business at Penn, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He innovated because we were there with him in 1995 Hill and Knowlton College as a laboratory for young leaders. And he continues to this day, 20 years later, to be the shepherd of that effort.

He’s handpicked hundreds and hundreds of men and women in whom he found light and hope for the future. And he has walked with them, helping illuminate their path for a brighter future. It has been said by a wise philosopher that the unlived life is not worth living.

And I will tell you that Tom has lived his to the fullest. He will tell you that it is important to be interested in everything but focus only on the right things. He’s never far away, I can tell you that in my experience. When I look upon some days he’s in the audience.

He’s on my caller ID. Checking in, all these years later, encouraging, offering to help, and living the life of his heart, through others. Please join me in recognizing our Legacy Award winner, Tom Hoog.


TOM HOOG: One of my theories of management has always been to surround yourself by people brighter than you. Turn them loose and then do your best to take a little bit of credit for what they do. And Keith fits that example totally. Thank you for allowing me to join you tonight.

It’s a great pleasure, first of all, and I’m deeply moved to be honored with this legacy award. And I’m certainly very grateful to The Plank Center for making the evening so special. In a way, all of us here tonight in support of The Plank Center are following in the footsteps of Betsy Plank.

She was a true pioneer in the field of public relations. As the first woman to ever lead the PRSA, she broke the glass ceiling in 1973. And always one of her top priorities through PRSA, through PRSSA, and through all of her civic contributions was advancing the education of students in our field.

She recognized that someday soon, they would become the new generation of leaders in our profession. Mentoring is certainly a major part of that education process. The give and take of the mentor and the mentee relationship helps pass the best insights about what makes our profession so valuable. And through the leadership efforts of The Plank Center in promoting education and mentoring.

I hope we’ll help to encourage everyone in our profession to make mentoring a part of their daily life. And of the corporate culture of every firm in our field. Sharing knowledge is one of the few things in life where, even after sharing, we still have ownership. One of my favorite books on leadership cites three qualities that all leaders must have.

A vision, a love of life, and a willingness to share of themselves. I think that describes Betsy to a T. She had a great vision of preparing students for their future, and for taking on a mantle of leadership. She was a woman who loved life to the fullest, lived it to the fullest, and a woman who created a life of sharing of herself.

She was not a self-proclaimed leader or a mentor. But every action she took defined the words leader and mentor. And how fortunate are those of us who had the opportunity to know her and to be mentored by her. Betsy sought to be remembered for what she gave, not for what she gained.

And the event tonight, once again, is a tribute to her and to a life devoted to making others all they could be. When it comes to mentoring, I’m reminded of a wonderful story of the old sage and the young man seeking to establish a legacy. The young man said he had written his name in the sand.

But eventually the tide came in and the name was gone. The young man then said he had written his initials in a tree. But the tree grew faster in time. And to, again, he lost sight of those initials. And lastly, he carved his initials in a stone or in a rock.

But that too disappeared after a period of time due to wind, rain, and erosion. So he finally pleaded to the old sage for the real way to establish an enduring legacy and to leave your mark on life. And the sage responded by saying. Carve your initials not in the sand, not in the tree, not in the rock, but into the heart of every person you come in touch with.

Do that by treating them with love, respect, and tolerance. That way you will endure forever in their hearts and in their minds. So, in closing, let me extend my thanks again to The Plank Center for this award. And let me offer a challenge to each of us. To carve our initials in the heart of each and every person we come in touch with.

By how we treat them with love, respect, and tolerance. Just as Betsy did and as Betsy would want us to do. Thank you very much. I appreciate being with you.



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