Geoff Hollister, Creative Visionary and Champion of Running: A Tribute

Mon, 6 Feb. 2012 - 3:57 p.m. MT
Credit: Dave Watt - American Running Association

Geoff Hollister, Legend in the Sport of Running and Friend to ARA passed away peacefully early today, February 6, 2012

To contribute to the GEOFF HOLLISTER RUN A MILES DAY FUND, click here.

“You were a Navy guy?  Me too” said Geoff Hollister the first time we met in the spring of 2002.  I had just taken over as Executive Director of the American Running Association in March.   During the first month aboard ARA, I was trying to learn who was on the Board of Directors and who could play a part of the nonprofit going forward.  As I heard more about Geoff and what he had done in his life, I just wanted to meet him and gain his insights. Boy was I lucky.

Geoff Hollister had that eye; an eye that could envision the blend of shapes and colors into an appealing painting or design.  His eye also looked forward in life.  At ARA, Geoff was lured to assist on the Board of Directors by his friend and fellow Navy veteran Jeff Galloway.  He liked the fact that American Running had ties to the early days of jogging espoused by Bill Bowerman.  It was not lost on Geoff that Bowerman served on the first Board of Directors of the National Jogging Association which is now the American Running Association.   The mission to get more people physically active through running as a healthy lifestyle choice was instilled in Geoff before he stepped foot onto the campus of the University of Oregon.  

Geoff was made for startup situations.  He would take your vision and run with it.  I am certain that is what happened in the early days of Blue Ribbon Sports and ultimately Nike.  Before I could get started on new ideas for American Running in 2002, I heard that Geoff may not stick around on the Board.  He had recently retired from Nike and mentioned that he had some other nonprofit commitments.  I hit Geoff with some new ideas and direction for ARA and it just seemed to light a fire within.  Soon he bought into these propositions and he said I had to come to the Nike Campus.

That is when I realized Geoff was all about team.  In many ways, we shared some of the same values on what it means to be a teammate, a shipmate or a crew.  He guided his commanding officer as the navigator on an oiler during his active duty service in the Vietnam War.  His sense of team came from running cross country and was forged under Bowerman at the University of Oregon.  That feeling of “team” is what I realized was the key to Nike’s birth and growth.  That is what Geoff and I used as the theme to convince Phil Knight to have American Running honor “Team Nike” for their impact on the Sport of Running.

Geoff’s vision and creativity extended to all elements.  He brought me into the world of film production.  Our second American Running Honors Gala focused on the 50th Anniversary of the first sub-4 minute mile.   Geoff had been the Executive Producer of one of the most highly regarded documentaries in running or track and field, Fire On The Track.  We almost had Sir Roger Bannister set to fly to the U.S. and attend our Gala.  Terrorism fears with flights out of the UK led to his cancelled appearance but Bannister did invite us to film a tribute.  Geoff and I took that invite one step further.  We asked if he’d let us come to the UK and film him in an interview at a place of his choosing in Oxford.

The trip to the site of the first sub-4 minute mile was magical.  I saw firsthand how deft Geoff was in telling a story.  He managed to ask Sir Roger questions that fit perfectly with the original footage of the 1954 mile race.  Geoff asked those questions without the footage of that race in-hand, nor was I sure Geoff had watched it leading up to the interview.   That interview was turned into our mini-documentary on “Breaking the Barrier” on the first sub-4 minute mile.

Geoff continued to help ARA throughout his valiant and stalwart battle with colorectal cancer.  From the moment he was first diagnosed until last week, Geoff lived life with purpose, creativity and thoughtful giving.

Geoff put it best in the final paragraphs of his autobiography, OUT OF NOWHERE, when he reflected on his view of living one’s life:

…”It’s not about how long you live but how you contribute.  It’s about doing your best and doing the right thing.  It’s about recovering from your mistakes and not giving up.  It’s about the baton pass to a new generation.  It’s about the realization that you can not go it alone.  It takes a team”

 



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