1997 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Beyond protecting your health and getting a good education, set goals for yourself. You should always have a bar you are trying to get over. If you become complacent, you’re on the downhill slope."
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1931, Walter Scott, Jr., is the grandson of Scottish immigrants. Raised during the Depression, Scott began working as at eight years old, shoveling snow for neighbors. When he was older, he worked on farms and ranches during the summer. One year, he hopped a train and worked on a ranch in Oregon. He attended Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University), where he earned an engineering degree. During his college years, he worked summers for Kiewit, a construction company. He continued with the company after graduation as an engineer.
After a brief stint in the Air Force during the Korean War, Scott returned to Kiewit, which was in the midst of a major construction boom. Scott moved his family to 17 job sites in 12 years, methodically working his way up the ladder from job foreman to superintendent to district manager, crisscrossing the country from project to project. Through the years, the company's owner, Peter Kiewit, became a mentor to Walter Scott. Shortly before his death, he chose Scott as his successor.
When Scott became CEO of Kiewit in 1979, it was principally a construction business with some mining interests. Under his leadership, those businesses grew and prospered and Kiewit became one of the leading heavy construction organizations in the nation. Scott led the company into new ventures in telecommunications, energy, and investments in infrastructure projects. In 1998, Peter Kiewit Sons' (PKS) separated its construction and communication/information services business, establishing Level 3 Communications, which had been a subsidiary company, as an independent corporation. Scott became chairman emeritus of PKS and continued as chairman of Level 3, which today operates one of the largest communications and Internet backbones in the world.
Scott said recently he has thoroughly enjoyed his membership with the Horatio Alger Association, including a term as board chairman. "For me," he said, "each year's ceremonies are an inspirational experience. Meeting the young people receiving scholarships and learning of the hardships they've had to overcome renews your faith in the human spirit and the power of positive thinking."
The father of four, Scott told his children when they were growing up, "The greatest thing you can have in life is your health. The greatest thing you can acquire in life is education. The greatest thing you can do in life is to be a giver because the world already has plenty of takers."