01/12/2012 08:06 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2012

'This Is Alice Korngold, She's an Activist'

That's how Eugene Lang introduced me to the President of Swarthmore College when we met a few years ago. I was startled by the introduction. Standing there in Gene Lang's office in my black suit and black patent heels, that wasn't the introduction I anticipated. I've thought it over many times since then. And actually, Gene Lang nailed it.

By the age of sixteen, I could have been the poster child for a crisis nursery, domestic violence shelter, and rape crisis center. On the positive side, however, I grew up in Washington, D.C. in a neighborhood nestled in Rock Creek Park, with friends from many countries, religions, and races. After school, we played hop-scotch and double-dutch jump rope, and roller-skated and biked for hours. On weekends, we went to Carter Barron Amphitheater in the park to see concerts with Diana Ross, and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. We also marched for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. In my home, famous and controversial movement leaders came for dinners and discussions.

At ten, my friend and I organized a carnival fundraiser in the park for muscular dystrophy. During my teenage years, I volunteered as a guide for visitors at an international center, a tutor for a child from Vietnam, and a counselor at an inner city summer camp. I also volunteered as a visitor guide at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History; my boss was Nancy Brennan, a young volunteer coordinator, with whom I was enchanted. Decades later, I sat next to her father at a dinner party and told him; Supreme Court Justice William Brennan so enjoyed the story that he asked me to repeat it on the few occasions that we met at events. I understand that Nancy Brennan continues to do much to be admired.

By nature, I'm an exuberant and curious person. I'm passionate about service, and the opportunity for people to enrich their own lives by finding meaningful ways to make the world better. I'm also passionate about a number of causes including human rights, women and girls, education, and immigration.

My story also helps to explain my passion about boards -- both nonprofit and for-profit boards. People who agree to serve on boards accept important responsibilities for the economic, social, and environmental welfare of the world in which we live. Boards and the CEOs they engage have a mandate to be ambitious in envisioning the greater potential for our world and its people, and then developing amazing products and services for a successful future.