February 2013
Howard University Capstone October 2012  
Magic Johnson Brings Wisdom and Resiliency to Howard University Hospital
By Jordane Frazier, intern, Office of University Communications
With hundreds of people screaming his name and applauding his success, multimillionaire entrepreneur and NBA Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson greeted every anxious hand, and every request for a photo and autograph with a firm shake and humble smile during his visit to Howard University Hospital on Feb.7.

“When I come back to D.C. and I come on the Howard University campus, it’s always a great experience for me,” Johnson said as he stood among a crowd of fans in the Hospital cafeteria. “To see so many people here says that everyone is doing an excellent job at the Hospital.”

The former Los Angeles Lakers star came to speak with School of Business students, Hospital staff and the local community about his transformation from basketball to business and how he has lived with HIV for the past 22 years. His visit also included a tour of his Magic Johnson Championship Sub Connection restaurant located in the Hospital’s cafeteria.

“Say he didn’t come out in the community and share his story. Then a lot of people would still try to hide their statuses and not try to get the information they need to maintain healthy lives,” said Evelyn Apugo, an administrative assistant at the Hospital, as she waited with others in the cafeteria. “Because it’s not just about the money, it’s about maintaining your health and taking care of yourself and that’s what he’s about.”

At the height of a successful career in the NBA—Johnson is a three-time NBA MVP, five-time NBA Champion and was voted as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history—he retired after being diagnosed in 1991 with HIV.  Since then, he has managed to develop an impressive résumé as a businessman.

He has since opened more than 125 Starbucks locations, which he sold back to Starbucks for a handsome profit, and holds shares in the Los Angeles Lakers He also owns movie theaters and radio stations in major cities, from New York to Phoenix, and is the majority owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, making him the first African-American majority owner of a Major League baseball franchise.

He created a national contract food service with Sodexo USA called Sodexo-Magic in 2006, and two of those franchises are at Howard University. His many business ventures employ more than 45,000 people.

“I had to find out what I wanted to do with the money I earned and saved,” Johnson said. “I wanted to invest my money so I wanted to make sure I started a business I could build and that was in demand.”

As he walked around the Hospital auditorium, he answered several questions about overcoming business obstacles and he talked about handling his HIV-positive status. 

“People are only going to treat you how you treat yourself,” he said. “Twenty-two years for me and my walk hasn’t changed. I’m still walking, head up, happy guy. I had to educate people on the fly and at the same time I had to educate myself on the fly about this disease. I’m cool with my status and I take my meds, that’s it.”

Following his visit at Howard, Johnson was scheduled to visit President Barack Obama to discuss funding and government advocacy for HIV and AIDs.

“President Obama has done a wonderful job when it comes to addressing HIV and AIDS and bringing it to the forefront and providing funding for it as well,” Johnson said. “I think that what we want from our great president is for him to look at the crisis and the programs and just give us funding so that we can care for people around the United States.”

Photos by Justin D. Knight
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