Robert A. Scott, 74, Garden City, NY
Occupation: President of Adelphi University
Purpose: “The optimal use of time, talent, and resources to help other people — approaching it in concentric circles: family, neighborhood, university, the world.”

When he was nine years old, Robert’s mother died. “It was a very confusing time for me,” he says. “I was getting into trouble after school. I was acting out.” Then, at summer camp, he encountered a series of small signs that marked a shift in the way he would live his life.

The signs had one word in common: “Others.” As in, “Think of others,” “Respect others,” “Be aware of others,” “Put yourself in others’ shoes.” He began to realize also that others were thinking about him.

For instance, neither of his parents had gone to college, but a high school biology teacher spurred him to take his SATs, which helped him win scholarships and gain college admission. Another time, when he was with a group of boys harassing a shopkeeper, the shopkeeper did an “amazing thing”: he offered Bob a job as a way to help the young lost boy do something worthwhile.

“They gave me an idea of my future that I didn’t have on my own,” Robert says. As a result, he made it his life’s work is to do the same for others. “It gives me a sense of fulfillment,” he says. “I’ve never been happier in my life. And every year it gets better.”