Janet Parker Whitla '52

Alumnae Achievement Awards 2010

Janet Parker Whitla ’52
Nonprofit Leader, Education Innovator

Janet Parker Whitla ’52 was President and CEO of Education Development Center (EDC) for 25 years (1981-2006). Under Whitla’s leadership, EDC became one of the world’s leading health and education research and development organizations. Her vision and leadership skills guided EDC through unprecedented growth, including a dramatic expansion of its international work.

EDC is a global non profit organization that designs, delivers and evaluates programs to address some of the world’s most urgent challenges in education, health and economic development. Working with the public sector and private partners to improve education, promote health care, prepare workforces, the organization encourages civic engagement and deploys communications and other technologies to increase the quality of life of people in many countries.

Under Whitla’s direction, EDC launched over 300 projects in more than 64 countries around the world and grew from a $5 million to a $125 million per year non-profit organization. The theme she drove during her tenure at the EDC was learning as the essential element in human progress. In the 2004 EDC Annual Report, Whitla wrote, “(Long ago I) concluded that learning is not only the most fundamental human behavior, at the core of consciousness, but also the liberating force in human development.”

Whitla was instrumental in launching the “YES” campaign (an action-oriented initiative in 55 countries, responding to the enormous global challenge of youth unemployment through a youth leadership and enterprise-based model), hosting it at EDC for 8 plus years until it became an independent international organization.

Other examples of programs started, funded and/or supported during Whitla’s tenure include:

  • CAPTIC, a program to use technology to support teachers and promote student-centered learning in remote regions of Peru
  • Center for College Health and Safety program to reduce high risk behaviors on college campuses in the United States
  • Community School Alliance project in Ghana, to motivate communities to get more involved with their schools
  • The Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies curriculum to help (U.S., mostly inner city) high school students develop academic knowledge and practical skills that allow them to enter the workforce or college with confidence and competence.

Whitla has written and contributed to numerous publications and many research works and made professional presentations on a wide variety of educational topics at national and international forums.

Whitla’s other activities include:

  • Member and Past President, Board of Governors, Handel and Haydn Society
  • Member and past Chair, Board of Trustees, New Bedford Whaling Museum
  • Member Board of Trustees, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra
  • Member Board of Trustees Cambridge College
  • Member Board of Trustees, From the Top
  • Member Board of Trustees, ATLAS Communities (New American Schools Reform Program)
  • Member Advisory Board, Young Audiences of Massachusetts


For more information about the Alumnae Achievement Awards, please contact us by email at specialprograms@alum.wellesley.edu or call the Alumnae Association at 781-283-2331.