12/12/2012 07:55 am ET

Purpose Prize: Meet Standout Post 60s Truly Making A Difference

There's the Oscar. There's the Emmy. There's the Pulitzer, the Peabody and the Nobel Prize. But beyond all that there is the Purpose Prize, awarded each year to Americans 60 and older for changing lives in new and creative ways.

A Purpose Prize of $100,000 was recently awarded by, a nonprofit that promotes second acts that make a difference, to five movers and shakers chosen from among 800 nominees by a panel of judges that included Jane Pauley, David Gergen and Sidney Poitier. The Purpose Prize was established by to raise awareness of the impact of those over 60 who have dedicated the second half of their life to making a positive impact on society. You will find a list of the five winners below.

In addition to the winners, there were 35 Purpose Prize fellows -- finalists for the prize -- chosen this year.

“Purpose Prize fellows are using their passion and experience to help solve some of society’s steepest challenges,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of and author of "The Big Shift." “They represent a growing wave of people in their 60s and beyond who are using their knowhow to change the world, while shifting perceptions of what is possible in this stage of life.”

One of those fellows was Dr. Deborah Briggs, a founding member of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), recognized for her continuing work in fighting the scourge of rabies worldwide. Briggs is acknowledged as a global expert on rabies, having worked on the disease with both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States and the World Health Organization. In response to what she saw as a pressing need for a dramatic change in the approach to rabies education and prevention, in 2006 she left her position at the CDC to establish GARC. “It seemed to me that there were many challenges to be overcome in the fight against rabies and that the best way to overcome these was to use my years of experience to bring people together and work directly with the communities affected,” Briggs said.

We recently spoke with Briggs about her work and the prize

Can you tell us a bit about your background... where you grew up and went to school?

I received my doctorate from Kansas State University and was Director of the Rabies Diagnostic Laboratory in the College of Veterinary Medicine at KSU for several years. I continue to be an adjunct Full Professor in the College of Vet Med at KSU.

How did you get interested in the study of rabies?

I did my PhD research in rabies and from there become Director of the Rabies Laboratory where I continued to learn about both the animal and human side of the disease. I truly became passionate about trying to do something to prevent human and animal rabies when I visited Asia and saw firsthand the devastation that this disease causes to families.

What are you working on next?

Our organization, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, is working on a novel educational strategy aimed at empowering communities across the world to take steps to improve rabies prevention in their own neighborhoods, and at giving them the tools that they need to save the lives of their children, families and neighbors.

What do most people not know about rabies?

Most people do not know that rabies still kills so many people across the world and most of them are children under the age of 15 years. They also don’t know that rabies has the highest case fatality rate of any infectious disease known to man. People also don’t know that we have good vaccines that are no longer given into the stomach, they are administered into the arm just like other vaccines!

What do you like to do when you aren't working?

I do have other hobbies. I like to weave and I am a spinner.

In addition to Briggs and the other fellows, the five Purpose Prize winners are as follows:

B.P. Agrawal brings safe drinking water to six villages in India, where 10,000 people live. He’s doing it by collecting rain.

Susan Burton, a former drug addict who was in and out of jail for 20 years, helps formerly incarcerated women in Los Angeles stay out of jail.

Judy Cockerton, winner of this year’s Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Innovation, sponsored by AARP, creates innovative ways people can help foster kids in Massachusetts -- including serving as “honorary grandparents.”

Thomas Cox, a pro bono lawyer in Maine who exposed massive fraud among mortgage lenders, teaches other lawyers how to protect homeowners from unfair lending practices.

Lorraine Decker is taking her know-how as a financial planner to help low-income families in Houston earn more and to prepare teens for the financial rigors of adulthood.

Nominations for the 2013 Purpose Prize will open in January. Perhaps this year's group of winners and fellows will inspire you to nominate someone you know who is helping change lives.


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