FOR THE PAST SEVEN years, the spiritual Web site Beliefnet has honored extraordinary individuals—from famous figures to everyday folks who have made the world a better place. Visitors to the site, which is part of the Fox Entertainment Group and not affiliated with any specific religious organization, submit nominations for the award, and the final winner is selected by an online vote.
Beliefnet readers overwhelmingly selected Dr. Liviu Librescu as the 2007 winner. (The 2008 winner will be annouced in December.) The 76-year-old Holocaust survivor and noted scientist who taught engineering at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., was killed tragically last April when student Seung-Hui Cho opened fire in the professor's classroom during a horrifying shooting spree. Librescu saw the gunman approaching and instinctively barricaded the classroom door with his body and told his students to jump out of the windows. Librescu's heroic actions saved the lives of his students.
- Other nominees for the honor:
- Wesley Autrey, who saved a man who had fallen on a New York subway track;
- Majora Carter, environmentalist activist for the urban poor;
- Don Cheadle, actor and Darfur activist;
- Tony Dungy, NFL coach;
- Dr. Catherine Hamlin, 83-year-old healer of women in Africa;
- Angelina Jolie, actress and advocate for children of war;
- Barbara Morgan, astronaut and teacher;
- Luma Mufleh, YMCA soccer coach turned advocate for young refugees;
- Major Scott Southworth, U.S. soldier who adopted a handicapped orphan in Iraq.