Founded by Quakers, Whittier College has retained its deep commitment to the core principals of the Friends, though it became a secular institution in the 1940s. For 125 years, Whittier’s academic curriculum has been rooted in providing students a breadth of global perspective and understanding coupled with a strong dedication to service and social justice. Graduates of Whittier have impacted lives and communities around the world, working for large scale operations such as the United Nations, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and the World Health Organization, as well as local institutions, including Bridges of Faith, the Los Angeles AIDS Organization, and countless others.
In 1965, Linda Biehl graduated from Whittier College with a degree in History. Years later, she would become a global icon for healing and humanitarian action as she not only forgave her daughter’s murderers, but then worked to gain their freedom and turn her personal tragedy into a legacy of positive community action.
In 1993, Linda’s daughter was a Fulbright scholar working in South Africa to help end apartheid. In a tragic twist, she was violently killed by a few local men who were later arrested and found guilty of her murder. Taking up her daughter’s mission, however, Linda and her husband made the decision to recast this event, instead making it an opportunity to help South Africa and its local communities heal in the wake of a turbulent era of racial oppression. As a result, the Amy Biehl Foundation was established, a nonprofit that now helps South African youth through educational and arts programs, with a goal to guide them away from the cyclical violence to which so many fall.
For her outstanding contributions to the country and her continuing generosity of spirit, in 2009 then-President Thabo Mbeki awarded Linda with South Africa’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo. In 2011, Linda returned to Whittier College to help launch the Center for Engagement with Communities (CEC), serving as its inaugural fellow and inspiring students to actively embrace the “power of one.”