I am really sad to hear George McGovern's life is near its end. He is the epitome of a public servant, a humanitarian and leader. George has done more to end hunger in this world than any other person. A lifelong leader in the battle against world hunger, McGovern was appointed the first director of the Food for Peace Program by President John F. Kennedy in 1960, and was instrumental in the foundation of WFP in 1963. McGovern as Food for Peace director in 1961, with President John F. Kennedy. SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- As former Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. George McGovern moved into what may be his final days in a Sioux Falls hospice Tuesday, friends and colleagues praised McGovern as a political and humanitarian giant. "He has inspired not just one generation, but multiple generations of individuals to get involved in public service," said Donald Simmons, director of the George McGovern Center at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, McGovern's home town. The news of McGovern's health decline came as a shock to many people who had seen him recently, including just over a week ago at a South Dakota Symphony Orchestra performance. "I spoke with him at the symphony this weekend," said Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D. "He was frail, but he looked good as ever." Johnson is one of many people who said McGovern helped change their lives. "I dreamed of someday following George McGovern," Johnson said of his time in college in the 1960s and '70s. "I didn't think it would occur, but he was a good person to model myself after." McGovern represented eastern South Dakota in the House of Representatives from 1957 to 1961. After an unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Karl Mundt in 1960, McGovern was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to lead the Food for Peace Program. He then returned to South Dakota and narrowly won a Senate seat in 1962. Fighting hunger would be a lifelong passion for McGovern, helping to create the United Nations' World Food Programme and then decades later serving as its U.N. Global Ambassador on World Hunger. One beneficiary of McGovern's battle against hunger is Ahrar Ahmad, a professor of political science at Black Hills State University. Growing up in what is now Bangladesh, Ahmad said food was always very scarce and Food for Peace saved many lives. "That was one of those projects that has so much meaning for so many people in the world," Ahmad said. "It indicates that Americans care, that Americans are generous, that Americans are willing to do something for the education and nutrition of hungry and poor people in the world. It was a remarkable program, and one that I personally benefited from." Years later, after coming to the United States to pursue a doctorate degree, Ahmad had a chance to meet McGovern and tell him his story. "He was almost brought to tears," Ahmad said. "Both Senator McGovern and his, wife, Eleanor, they have been very kind to me. I cannot tell you how moved I was that a person of this stature, of this international reputation, would be so warm and so unassuming when it came to me. They were so loving and so caring." McGovern's wife of 63 years, Eleanor, died in 2007 in Mitchell.