Skip to main content

Six Entrepreneurs Over 60 Win $100,000 Purpose Prizes for Innovation, Extraordinary Contribution in Encore Careers

Resource type: News

Civic Ventures |

Nine Others Win $10,000 Each, as Experienced Adults Prove to be an Unexpected Source of Social Innovation SAN FRANCISCO – One winner put his mechanical know-how to work and invented a $28 machine to help rural African villagers shell peanuts more efficiently. Another, in Fargo, North Dakota, rallied hundreds of local volunteers to help thousands of refugees from countries like Iraq and Somalia start new lives in their city. A third is working to ensure that black farmers in the South are included in the new green economy. These social entrepreneurs, and a dozen more like them, are the winners of the 2008 Purpose Prize, a six-year, $17 million program for people over 60 who are taking on society’s biggest challenges. The Purpose Prize, now in its third year, is the nation’s only large-scale investment in social innovators in the second half of life. The six $100,000 winners and nine $10,000 winners were chosen from more than 1,000 nominees for their creative and effective work tackling problems ranging from poverty to pollution, recidivism to racial reconciliation, health care to homelessness. For the first time, Americans doing work abroad were eligible to win. One such winner was awarded $100,000, and two others won $10,000. 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 23 judges are leaders in business, politics, journalism and the nonprofit sector – including actor Sidney Poitier, former presidential advisor David Gergen, former Senator Harris Wofford and journalist Cokie Roberts. Short summaries for all winners are below, and fuller summaries, videos and photographs are online at The Purpose Prize is part of the Encore Careers campaign (, which aims to engage millions of boomers in encore careers, which combine social impact, personal meaning and continued income in the second half of life – and produce a windfall of human talent to solve society’s most pressing issues. In tough economic times, we need more creative solutions to long-standing social problems, said Marc Freedman, co-founder of The Purpose Prize and author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. It’s reassuring to note that as America ages, we have creativity in greater abundance. Purpose Prize winners, ranging in age this year from 61 to 72, show that experience and innovation can go hand in hand, that inventiveness is not the sole province of the young. The Purpose Prize award ceremonies this year will kick off the first-ever Encore Careers Summit on December 5-7 at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business’ Center on Social Innovation, one of the world’s leading academic centers focused on social entrepreneurship. An invitation-only event, more than 450 people will attend the Summit, including Purpose Prize winners and Fellows, hundreds of others in encore careers, and leaders in education, government, business, philanthropy, and public policy. The goal is to launch a movement of those in the second half of life who want to use longer, healthier lives for social good. 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. Additional funding for the Summit comes from AARP, Erickson Companies, the New York Life Foundation, Hewlett-Packard Company and Legacy Works. The $100,000 winners are (alphabetically): Arlene Blum (63, Berkeley, CA) Green Science Policy Institute Professional mountaineer and chemist who is mobilizing scientists, consumers and industry to limit toxins in household products. Jock Brandis (63, Wilmington, NC) The Full Belly Project (International winner) A former lighting director in the film industry who invented the holy grail of sustainable agriculture: a peanut sheller that now saves villagers in 17 countries valuable time and money. Mark Goldsmith (72, New York, NY) Getting Out and Staying Out A former cosmetics marketing executive who is slashing recidivism rates by offering young men at Rikers Island education, coaching, life-skill instruction and job training. Joe James (61, Columbia, SC) The Corporation for Economic Opportunity A former government employee who is working to ensure that black farmers in the South are included in the new green economy. Michele McRae (71, Fargo, ND) Giving+Learning A retired language professor who is organizing hundreds of volunteers to help thousands of refugees from war-torn countries start a new life in Fargo, North Dakota. Catalino Tapia (64, Redwood City, CA) Bay Area Gardeners Foundation A first-generation immigrant gardener who raises money from other gardeners, his clients and local businesses to fund scholarships for Latino students dreaming of college. The $10,000 winners are (alphabetically): Barbara T. Cervone (61, Providence, RI) What Kids Can Do A former philanthropy executive who refutes assumptions about young people by allowing them to speak for themselves – on the Web, on paper, in the field and in action research projects. Jay Powell Davidson (66, Louisville, KY) The Healing Place A former alcoholic and military officer who created a successful new model for simultaneously housing the homeless and treating drug addiction. Margaret Fleming (72; Oak Park, IL) Adoption-Link A mother of nine adopted children who is working to improve adoption rates for hard-to-place orphans, including those with HIV. Nasrine Gross (63, Falls Church, VA, and Kabul, Afghanistan) Kabultec (International winner) An Afghani native who spends most of the year in Kabul teaching literacy classes to couples – since women can do little without their husbands’ permission – in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Toni Heineman (61, San Francisco, CA) A Home Within A therapist who has organized her colleagues to offer free counseling for as long as it takes to foster youth who are often bounced around the system and struggle to trust adults. Nelson and Joyce Johnson (65 and 62, Greensboro, NC) The Beloved Community Center A leader of the labor and civil rights march dubbed the Greensboro Massacre who later, with his wife, launched America’s first Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal old wounds. Richard Ladner (65, Seattle, WA) Accessible Technology for Deaf or Blind People A computer science professor and son of deaf parents who works with students to develop technologies for people with disabilities, such as Web-based tools for blind people and cell phones for deaf people. Sharon Schindler Rising (68, Cheshire, CT) Centering Healthcare Institute A nurse-midwife who is revolutionizing prenatal care by conducting routine care in 90-minute group sessions – and reducing dangerous preterm births in the process. Ray Umashankar (66, India and Tucson, AZ) ASSET India Foundation (International winner) A computer engineering professor who is teaming up with his daughter to provide children of sex workers and victims of trafficking in India with IT skills and jobs. ### About Civic Ventures ( Civic Ventures is a national think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. About The Atlantic Philanthropies ( are The Atlantic Philanthropies dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Their work is aimed at ageing, disadvantaged children and youth, population health, and reconciliation and human rights. About the John Templeton Foundation ( The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in the areas engaging life’s biggest questions. These questions range from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity.

Related Resources



Global Impact:

United States


Civic Ventures, Purpose Prize, senior citizens