Here is my first, and certainly last, “Dear John” letter. Last week, at the age of 92, renowned business leader and humanitarian, John C. Whitehead, passed away. John was a luminary of extraordinary proportions. He proudly served our country in World War II, served honorably as Co-Chairman of Goldman Sachs, served at the highest levels of the State Department, and served with distinction at the leadership level of a multitude of civic and philanthropic organizations both nationally and in his adopted city of New York. In short, John “served with distinction” everywhere he went.
I met John when I joined the board of the CECP- The CEO Force for Good. CECP’s mission is to create a better world through business. John was one of the founders of the organization, along with Paul Newman, Peter Malkin, John Rockefeller, and others devoted to societal improvement through corporate engagement. As I retired from my position as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, I had the opportunity to assume the chairmanship of the organization. This is where my story with John began to take shape. I was remarkably humbled and inspired by the degree to which he was determined to “serve” CECP and my chairmanship “with distinction,” even at the tender age of 88. With that background, the following is my “Dear John” letter.