For one who had reached such a lofty height, he was a strange mix of confidence and modesty. A beekeeper from New Zealand, Sir Edmund Hillary was an aggressive amateur mountaineer drawn, he said, by the appeal of "grinding [competitors] into the ground on a big hill." Yet after accomplishing one of the 20th century's defining feats—his conquest, with Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953—he channeled the attention and knighthood that followed toward aiding the Nepalese Sherpas, who had so often helped him. Raising funds through his Himalayan Trust, a project he continued until his death, Hillary (far right, with Tenzing) helped install pipes and bridges and built 30 schools, two hospitals, 12 medical clinics and more. The arduous work didn't faze him. In 1996 he told TIME, "I would like to see myself not going [to Nepal] quite so often. But at the moment ... the responsibility is there. It has to be done." He was 88.