October 15, 2018
Vision. Perseverance. Belief. These are the qualities that unite this inaugural class of NYU Alumni Changemakers—a selected group of NYU alumni whose accomplishments help build a better world. From bringing access to clean water to millions across the globe; keeping digital exchanges safe in a world that operates online; bridging the geographic gap between underserved patients and attending physicians and specialists; and so much more; the 2018 NYU Alumni Changemakers save lives, reduce suffering, and bring hope to the marginalized.
Meet five of this year’s honorees whose accomplishments help build a better world, and keep good going by nominating the entrepreneurs and visionaries who will be named 2019 NYU Alumni Changemakers.
“I was the worst person I knew,” says Scott Harrison, whose post-college years as a top Manhattan nightclub promoter left him miserable and morally bankrupt. Reviving a long-dormant Christian faith, Harrison sold everything he owned and sought out service work, volunteering as a photojournalist aboard a hospital ship. That's how he ended up in West Africa, where his daily exposure to poverty and disease led him to a world-changing epiphany.
“Many of the breakthroughs we've had in society began as fool’s errands,” says cryptologist and computer scientist Martin Hellman. He ought to know. When he entered the still-emerging field of cryptography in the 1970s, it was seen as a ludicrous career choice. The NSA had a stranglehold on relevant research, and any really interesting work seemed bound to be classified.
“It was tragedy that led me to activism,” says Jean Paul Laurent. Originally from Haiti, Jean Paul was an undergraduate at NYU when his homeland was rocked by a devastating earthquake. After seeing the damage firsthand, the idea of simply pursuing a career in dental hygiene gave way to a powerful urge to help.
“I refused to accept doctors giving up on a young child,” says Hope Lewis, who was working in China as an international finance attorney when her life took a turn. A client’s 18-month-old daughter was diagnosed with liver cancer, and physicians declared the case hopeless. But Lewis suspected that this verdict was the product of an overburdened system. She traveled to the United States and solicited opinions—and a treatment plan—from renowned oncologists.
“I thought I would get my degree in dentistry, go home to Florida, and practice,” says Eduardo Rodriguez, whose switchback journey has led him far afield from traditional dentistry. Rodriguez is a celebrated trauma surgeon at NYU Langone, where his work has given hope to thousands of people with disfiguring injuries. Even more astounding, Rodriguez has become one of the world’s foremost experts in facial transplantation surgery.