Editor’s note: As part of the 40th anniversary of McKnight’s, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News are recognizing 40 notable newsmakers. Each week, the brands will highlight a new, high-profile leader from the past four decades. Previously published installments of the series are posted here.

A sense of purpose has guided David J. Horazdovsky since he joined the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society in 1978. “I learned early on that this isn’t about me; it’s about other people. It’s about reaching out to fellow human beings and realizing early on that, boy, there’s no greater calling than this,” Horazdovsky, the organization’s CEO, once told McKnight‘s.

In the almost 20 years he has served at the helm of Good Samaritan, the Sioux Falls, SD-based organization grew into one of the largest not-for-profit providers in the country. Last year, it merged with Sanford Health, one of the largest healthcare systems in the country. The combined systems have 45 hospitals, almost 300 clinics and more than 200 senior living and care locations across 26 states and nine countries. Sanford’s Randy Bury now serves as president of Good Sam, which remains the largest not-for-profit skilled nursing operator in the United States and second-largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living and care organization overall (No. 2 for assisted living and No. 3 for independent living), according to the most recent LeadingAge Ziegler 200 list.

But talk to the soft-spoken and thoughtful Horazdovsky and you wouldn’t think he commands an organization that generates more than $5 billion in annual revenue. He speaks instead about a passion for serving older people he developed while working as a custodian in a long-term care facility between high school and college. Later, an internship in college at Lyngblomstem, a nursing home in St. Paul, MN, cemented his desire to work in the field. He received an offer to work at the Society on May 5, 1978, one day after graduating with a degree in hospital administration from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.

“So it was finding my passion, working as a janitor in high school in a long-term care facility where I mowed lawns, mopped floors, filled pop machines, scrubbed kitchen grills … or whatever anyone else didn’t want to do, I think they gave it to me — that I found a strong interest in being around elders,” he told Sanford Health

“I’m grateful that I found my passion early in life. Some of my best experiences and times throughout my 40-year career have been in those early years. I still draw upon them in many ways to help frame my thinking and decision-making.”