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Saturday, March 9, 2019

HERstory: Dr. Sylvia Whitlock, UN Global Citizen and Humanitarian

Photo by Alyce Henson

Dr. Sylvia Whitlock was born in New York City but was educated, through high school, in Kingston, Jamaica. After returning to New York City she earned a B.A. in Psychology from Hunter College. Sylvia worked for the United Nations, as a Statistical Clerk, at the Secretariat Building in New York, before moving to California to start a career in Education. In California she went on to earn a Masters Degree, cum laude, in Education from Cal Poly, Pomona, and a Ph.D., cum laude, in Education, from Claremont Graduate School. Subsequently, she earned another Masters Degree, in Marriage and Family Therapy, from Azusa Pacific University, and began a second career as a therapist. She is licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences in California.

In 1982, while an Elementary School Principal in Duarte, CA., she was invited to join the history-making Ex-Rotary Club of Duarte. Dr. Whitlock became President of that club in 1987, the year the United States Supreme Court ruled that the club be reinstated, thus making her the first woman in Rotary International to head a club as President. She has served as President twice, Secretary, Treasurer, and Foundation Representative. At district level, she chaired the Four Way Test Speech committee for six years, the Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee for six years, receiving a Service Award from DG Don Aikin, and Simplified Grants for two years. She has been an assistant governor, presenter in Governors Institutes, and speaker in Rotary Clubs conventions and meetings, here and overseas, including South Africa, Jamaica.

Other community activities have included being a member of the Board of the Spanish Trails Girl Scout Council, volunteer at Pomona Valley Hospital, Recorder for the Blind and Dyslexic, and Commissioner at TriCity Mental Health Agency. In 2000, she was named Woman of the Year by NAACP and in 1998 she was named Distinguished Alumna by Cal Poly, Pomona. She chaired Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation teams and was, for eight years, a member of the Committee on Credentialing for California State Department of Education. She attends Trinity United Methodist Church where she is often a lay reader.

 Dr. Whitlock considers Rotary to be the best vehicle she knows for humanitarian ventures in service to mankind. Some favorite club projects, while in Duarte, have included sinking water wells in Nigeria, setting up an AIDS Center in Jamaica, supporting an orphanage in Mexico, and raised almost $90,000 for Education for Girls in India. She received the Global Citizen Award from United Nations Association. She continues to be inspired by the many Rotarians who have taken the organization to the edge of tomorrow and is committed to using the opportunity she has been given to further the cause of Rotary, in her community, in her country, and in the world.

Dr.Whitlock is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and benefactor. She is the mother of three children - Meredith - a Paul Harris Fellow, BG is a deputy county counsel in San Mateo County, and Arlan (deceased).  She considers raising her children the most satisfying and enjoyable job she has ever had. She is now a proud grandmother of three who bring her much delight.

The 1989 Council on Legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the history of Rotary. Dr. Whitlock chronicled her journey as the first woman President in Rotary International in the world in her book titled WOMEN ALSO SERVE, PDG Sylvia Whitlock, USA. 9 March 2015.

Filled with facts and personal anecdotes, the first woman president in Rotary International shares a fascinating glimpse into the journey of the Duarte club. Dr. Sylvia Whitlock, who was present as the club enlisted help from the American Civil Liberties Union and took the case through the California court system until a landmark decision in May 1987, details the circumstances of the case as women struggled to attain equal rights, her role in the process, conversations with participants and onlookers, and the benefits she has gained personally through her own membership.

Proceeds from the sale of the book supports the Rotary Foundation. Dr. Whitlock supports schools for girls in Nigeria, Mexico, India and Jamaica.

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