Skip to Content

Heroes of the 500 2014

By Catherine Dunn

Uncommon valor. How else to describe the instinct that made Masato Toda jump onto the subway tracks to rescue a young girl who had fallen—even as a train sped into the station? How else to capture the heart and guts of a guy like Todd Nelson, a retired U.S. Army master sergeant, who survived a roadside bombing in Afghanistan—and then came home to take on a new mission: helping other veterans get hired?

Uncommon heart. Yup—that would sum up Carmen King, who has arranged sponsorships for orphanages, helped 20 children get needed surgeries, and done much else to change the lives of kids and seniors in Reynosa, Mexico, a town just over the border from McAllen, Texas. No question the term fits Arnold Harvey to a tee. After seeing children sleeping on the streets along his garbage-collection route, the Washington, D.C., truck driver immediately began taking up collections at work. Today the charity Harvey started with his wife distributes food to some 5,000 struggling families each month.

Toda, Nelson, King, Harvey—all of them go to work every day. Indeed, they go to work every day for some of the biggest companies in America. This year, as we put together our Fortune 500 list, assembling reams of statistics on annual sales, profits, and market capitalization, we set out to take another measure of corporate success: Call it employee impact. Or kindness. Or generosity. Or magic. In short, we went looking for Fortune 500 workers who, unknown to even many of their colleagues, have performed remarkable acts of goodness.

And, boy, did we find them. We lit upon heroes in every corner of the corporate world, in every pay grade, and based all over the world. Some on the list below have forever changed the life of one individual or family; some have helped entire communities; still others have touched the lives of strangers never to be met. Of all our discoveries in this investigation, however, this one is particularly striking: Uncommon heroism is far more common in America’s giant companies than we knew. That’s the measure for which the Fortune 500 should be most proud.