Junior Leaguers may not typically think of themselves as philanthropists, although what we do here meets Wikipedia’s etymological definition of the term as “the love of humanity” as well as the practical definition of “private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of life.”

But more than that, a surprising number of Junior League members have used the training they received here to launch separate careers or initiatives that use classic philanthropy tools to create lasting community impact.

Here are just a few examples, all former Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award winners, that meet Wikipedia’s definitions (both of them) of philanthropist. (If you have any other great examples from your own Leagues, please post them on The Junior League Facebook page!)

  • Betty Sims, the Junior League of St. Louis: In addition to being a state senator and a business owner, Betty has been the chairman of the board of the nation’s largest Girl Scout Council; the first woman vice-president of the local United Way; founder and president of the St. Louis unit of Girls’ Inc.; and an officer of the Salvation Army board of directors, the Arts and Education Council, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, and the Repertory Theater, among others.
  • Dee Dickinson, Junior League of Seattle: One of the world’s foremost experts on learning and human development, Dee has pioneered a number of innovative programs, including many that started out as Junior League projects. To pick one example, the Northwest Art Project, which she founded in the mid-sixties to bring the rich heritage of Northwest artists to local elementary school children, trained teachers to use art as a key educational tool. As part of an AJLI research project, Dee produced a powerful video, “Day One,” that educated new parents on how to raise physically and emotionally healthy children with a lifelong capacity to learn. Dee also established New Horizons for Learning, an international network of educators that provides information on the most effective teaching and learning strategies for all ages and abilities that is now part of John Hopkins University School of Education.
  • Jan Langbein, the Junior League of Dallas: Jan turned a Junior League placement at Genesis Women’s Shelter, a safe haven for victims of domestic violence, into a passionate involvement in the shelter’s operations, services and outreach, becoming the organization’s Executive Director only a few years later. Her work has made a lasting impact on local organizations, where she is a well-known guest speaker and influential mentor. Her innovative thinking has led to many new collaborations and tailor-made services for victims of domestic violence. Jan also has served as Senior Policy Advisor at the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice, as a board member and Public Policy Committee Member for the Texas Council on Family Violence, a Board Member for the North Texas Food Bank, and a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on Domestic Violence.
  • Glenda E. Hood, the Junior League of Greater Orlando: In addition to her former roles as Florida Secretary of State and Orlando Mayor, Glenda has served as President of the National League of Cities, President of the Florida League of Cities, Chairman of the Board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Department of Homeland Security Transition Task Force. Glenda’s progressive vision and inclusive nature have helped her build partnerships among 34 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean as part of the Free Trade Area of the Americas for the state of Florida. Glenda’s many honors include the American Community Network’s “Leadership Award for Economic Excellence,” the American Red Cross “Spotlight Award,” the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) “Humanitarian Award,” and the National Jewish Fund’s “Tree of Life” award.
  • Colleen Willoughby, the Junior League of Seattle: Colleen founded the Washington Women’s Foundation to create a new fund of major money from women donors and to train donors to become effective philanthropists. The Foundation has granted millions of dollars to hundreds of nonprofit organizations as varied as Mothers Against Violence in America, Community for Youth, Northwest Medical Teams, Washington Women’s Employment and Education, Team Read, the Pike Place Market Foundation and the Youth Suicide Prevention Program. She was also one of eight women founders of Seattle’s CityClub because, at the time, many civic organizations were open to men only. CityClub, open to all, is a nonpartisan forum for ideas and debate that has sponsored hundreds of speeches, discussions, and debates from local, regional, and national experts and leaders, contributing greatly to civic awareness in Seattle.
  • Pamela Yardley Paul, the Junior League of Jacksonville: After working on JLJ’s hot line, Pam moved on to a highly effective volunteer career, mixing hands-on service and advocacy. In the early 1980s, as president of the Florida Center for Children & Youth, she transformed the Tallahassee-focused organization into a statewide, membership-supported advocacy organization. She also became the first woman to chair the United Way of Northeast Florida, overseeing a campaign in which 12,000 volunteers raised more than $14 million, setting a record as the highest increase in total contributions of any United Way in the nation.