Willard E. White

Fabulous People: Willard E. White

Willard E. White, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Phoenix Friends School, the first of its kind in the Southwest. White is also Of Counsel for Marts & Lundy, Inc., which provides strategic counsel for large nonprofits. Learn about Willard E. White…

Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

First job: Full-time summer job packing auto parts for shipment at Eastern Auto Company, East Coast distributor for Renault America.  

Favorite ways to spend your free time in AZ: Hiking, theater, Arizona mining towns and museums.

Your biggest accomplishment and why: I retired from the Field Museum of Natural History in 2000. In 2015, I took their call and returned as Counsel to help design, test and guide an ambitious $250 million public campaign, the key to the Museum’s financial turnaround. We set out a bold vision for the future and, with many leaders and supporters, closed the campaign at $313 million. The success I saw with the Field Museum in Chicago is similar to what I pursue for the new Phoenix Friends School, my personal dream, an alternative middle school that combines academic rigor with Quaker values and learning both inside and outside the classroom. Our tagline: The City Is Our Classroom.  

The biggest obstacle you overcame: Drafted during the Vietnam War from a university teaching position, my academic career was interrupted for four years. What I learned in those Army years, including administrative training and experience, led to a career in university administration and fundraising, broader roles than first pursued.   

Someone who inspires you and why: Benjamin Franklin most nearly defines what it means to be American: self-made, self-reliant, sociable, non-sectarian in religious beliefs, egalitarian and always optimistic. Franklin, more than any of the nation’s founders, recognized the power of individuals working together to address local needs through local associations. 

Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Be sure your organization serves genuine needs in your community. Explain why your organization is uniquely qualified to provide solutions that matter. 

Favorite quote: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will be among the stars.” –Anon 

Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I collect Mr. Peanut memorabilia. 

What makes someone fabulous: Keep it simple, be as free from ego as possible, always pursuing new goals, and determined not to give up.  

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