Robert G. Romasco, M.B.A., of Burke, Va., was elected by the board to serve as AARP president for the 2012-2014 biennium.
"I grew up in Boston. My dad died before I was born. So my mom had to raise my sister and me with part-time work and checks from the Social Security survivors benefits fund, which, as I grew older, I came to understand was the difference between eating and not eating.
"From there, I went to college and worked in business for four decades. And in my spare time was able to convince one person to marry me and stay with me for 37 years. We have two kids. And that's probably the smartest thing I ever did!
"I started out in public opinion polling for a local firm in Boston. I'm so old that the major information gathering was door-to-door interviewing.
"One of the hallmark things we did came in 1969 after Sen. Edward Kennedy drove off the bridge. We had the polling contract for The Boston Globe. Our polling director said, 'Gee, wouldn't it be great if we could conduct a poll and find out what the voters of Massachusetts thought?'
"Door-to-door interviewing would take six to 12 weeks. I said, 'Why don't we try doing it by telephone?' So within 24 hours, I had organized a telephone interviewing force. Literally, I had people in my home kitchen.
"In four days, we did a poll. We published it in The Boston Globe. The voters were actually very sympathetic to Kennedy.
"That revolutionized information-gathering. We built a regional polling firm. I left there and went to business school and then worked in different corporate environments over the next 35 years.
"[At one point], I took a one-year sabbatical. That was very significant, because I stayed at home and did consulting. I actually got to see my kids go to school. I got to see them come home from the bus. I said, 'Oh, this is pretty important.'...
"... I was in a serious boating accident that was life-threatening. It changes the way you think about life. I was very fortunate. I survived. Broken jaw, punctured lung, pretty mangled up. An experience like this basically says you've been given a gift. If those three young men hadn't seen this boat empty in the lake and looked for the person [who] was drowning and pulled me out, we wouldn't be having this conversation today.
"So that says to you, why are you here? Are you doing all you can with the gifts you were given? I've been blessed beyond anything. My mom was terrific. I was the first person in my family to go to college. Went to the finest business schools in America, supported by the government through National Defense student loans.
"The fundamental question that we all ask is 'Did it matter that I was here?' So whenever I'm in a situation, I try to ask that question, and make sure that I'm contributing in any way I can. It's not about you. It's about how you help those around you.
"The satisfaction, the fulfillment, the sense of 'it does matter that you were here' is most evident when you give to others. The feedback, the renewal you get when you do that is extremely nourishing. It's an interesting closed system of investment, return and fulfillment."
M.B.A., Harvard Business School; B.A., history, Brandeis University
Strategy, marketing, brand development and organizational change
Former senior vice president of customer, distribution and new business development, QVC Inc.; executive vice president and chief marketing officer, CIGNA Inc.; president and chief executive officer, J.C. Penney Direct Marketing Services, including a profitable launch of international business units in the United Kingdom, Korea and Japan; senior vice president, American Century Investments; director of strategic customer development for Corporate Decisions Inc., and chief financial officer of Epsilon, a pioneer in the database marketing industry.
Formerly served as AARP board secretary/treasurer and chaired the Audit and Finance Committee. Former member, board of directors, AARP's Andrus Foundation. Former chair, board of deacons, Second Congregational Church, Boxford, Mass.
Other: He served on the outreach council, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, Penn. Has also served on the advisory board of the Eugene Bay Foundation.