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Five Social Innovators in Encore Careers Win $100,000 Purpose Prize

Resource type: News

Encore Careers / Civic Ventures |

The Purpose Prize and Civic Ventures are Atlantic grantees.

SAN FRANCISCO – This year’s winners of The Purpose Prize, a $100,000 award for social innovators in their encore careers, are using a new stage of life to do extraordinary things to improve life for millions of people worldwide.

They include:

  • A former telecom executive who helped wire an Appalachian county and brought laid-off factory workers back to profitable farming.
  • A professor who invented a way to transform toxic fly ash into green bricks.
  • A psychiatrist who helps saves soldiers’ lives by offering free mental health treatment.
  • A former NASA exec who works to treat alcoholism in Native American communities by reviving old customs and traditions.
  • A couple who honor their son, killed on 9/11, by helping to bring mental health services to countries ravaged by terrorism, violence and war.

These people and five other $50,000 winners are social entrepreneurs over 60 who are using their experience and passion to take on society’s biggest challenges. Now in its fourth year, the six-year, $17 million program is the nation’s only large-scale investment in social innovators in the second half of life.

The winners and 1,000-plus nominees in 2009 underscore a trend in entrepreneurialism later in life. According to studies by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the 55-64 age group is the most active in creating new ventures. Counter to stereotype, people ages 20-34, the study found, are the least entrepreneurial.

“More than ever, the problems facing our communities, our country and our world call out for creative solutions,” said Marc Freedman, co-founder of The Purpose Prize and author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. “Fortunately, we don’t run out of ideas as we age.

“Like so many others in this new stage of life between the end of midlife careers and the beginning of true old age, The Purpose Prize winners combine creativity, experience and passion with a desire to do something bigger than themselves,” Freedman continued.

The Encore Careers campaign is run by Civic Ventures, a national think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. Funding for The Purpose Prize comes from The Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation.

Sherry Lansing, CEO of the Sherry Lansing Foundation and former chair of Paramount Pictures’ Motion Picture Group, chairs the jury that selected this year’s winners. The 24 judges are leaders in business, politics, journalism and the nonprofit sector including actor Sidney Poitier, social entrepreneur Thomas Tierney, former Senator Harris Wofford and journalist Cokie Roberts.

The winners and 49 Purpose Prize Fellows of 2009 will be honored at a Summit on Innovation on Oct. 31 Nov. 1 at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business’ Center on Social Innovation, one of the world’s leading academic centers focused on social entrepreneurship.

The 300-plus attendees of the invitation-only event will hear a keynote address from Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman, and a panel discussion between William Damon (professor of education, director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, and author of Nobel Purpose: The Joy of Living a Meaningful Life); Philip Zimbardo (professor emeritus, Stanford University, researcher behind the Stanford Prison Experiment, author of The Lucifer Effect and Time Paradox); and Laura Carstensen (professor of psychology, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, and author of A Long Bright Future).

The Purpose Prize is a program of the Encore Careers campaign (, which aims to engage millions of baby boomers in encore careers combining social impact, personal meaning and continued income in the second half of life. The goal: to produce a windfall of human talent to solve society’s greatest problems, from education to the environment, health care to homelessness.

Short summaries for all winners are below. Fuller summaries, videos and photographs are online at

The $100,000 winners are (alphabetically):

Elizabeth (68) and Stephen Alderman (68), Peter C. Alderman Foundation, Bedford, NY
To honor their son who died on 9/11 and to treat the 1 billion victims of trauma and terrorism around the world, the Aldermans created a foundation that creates homegrown mental health systems where violence (rape, war, kidnapping,) has desecrated communities.

Judith Broder (69), The Soldiers Project, Los Angeles, CA
As a psychiatrist, Broder knew that, without help, some soldiers would never get past what they had seen and done. She created an organization that allows for free, confidential, unlimited therapy to service members and their families.

Don Coyhis (66), White Bison, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO
Although sober after years of alcohol abuse, Coyhis felt empty, disconnected from the reasons why he shouldn’t drink. He turned to his Native American roots and founded a nonprofit that offers native-focused recovery resources. In turn, it began a movement called Wellbriety.

Henry Liu (73), Freight Pipeline Co., Columbia, MO
A former engineering professor, Liu found a way to transform fly ash a toxic byproduct of burning coal into bricks. The process requires less energy and money, and doesn’t contribute to air pollution. Now he’s exploring how to move freight efficiently through underground pipelines.

Tim Will (61), Foothills Connect Business & Technology Center, Rutherfordton, NC
Will used his telecommunications background to connect his Appalachian county’s agrarian past to a digital future. Bringing broadband to the rural area helped link local farmers to chefs in Charlotte through an online ordering system, bringing laid-off factory workers back to farming.

The $50,000 winners are (alphabetically):

Marcy Adelman (63), openhouse, San Francisco, CA
As a psychologist, Adelman knew that many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) seniors looking for housing and care late in life face discrimination and loneliness. She set out to provide affordable, LGBT-friendly housing and training for service providers to better support LGBT elderly.

Duncan Campbell (65), Friends of the Children, Portland, OR
Because of two alcoholic parents, Campbell essentially raised himself and then, as an adult, went on to establish a successful investment firm. Now, he invests in children, promising the most disadvantaged children a caring, paid adult mentor from age 5 until adulthood.

Ann Higdon (69), Improved Solutions for Urban Systems, Dayton, OH
Higdon grew up homeless, with no love for learning until a teacher inspired her. Since then, she has convened professionals to similarly inspire dropouts. Her organization, which includes three charter schools, helps area dropouts earn diplomas while training for jobs in various sectors.

Connie Siskowski (63), Caregiving Youth Project, Boca Raton, FL
Siskowski cared for her grandfather as a pre-teen, so she knew that caring for aging relatives is stressful and far from a normal childhood. Her organization facilitates support groups in middle schools, offers classes on life skills, and provides other resources for youth caregivers.

James Smallwood (62), The Choice Is Yours, Inc., Camden, NJ
Previously homeless and drug-addicted, Smallwood was able to beat his cocaine dependency and create a nonprofit to train ex-convicts, addicts, and the homeless for work in the construction trades, while helping them with reading, math and job-hunting skills.


About Civic Ventures (
Civic Ventures is a national think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.

About The Atlantic Philanthropies (
The Atlantic Philanthropies are dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Atlantic makes grants through its four programme areas – Ageing, Children & Youth, Population Health, and Reconciliation & Human Rights – and through Founding Chairman grants. Programmes funded by Atlantic operate in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Viet Nam.

About the John Templeton Foundation ( The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for research and discoveries relating to what scientists and philosophers call the Big Questions. The Foundation supports work at the world’s top universities in such fields as theoretical physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and social science relating to love, forgiveness, creativity, purpose, and the nature and origin of religious belief.

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Civic Ventures, Purpose Prize