Brenau Trustee Amy Whitley. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Amy Whitley Uses Diversity, Inclusion Experience in New Role as Brenau Trustee

After 30 years climbing the ranks at UPS, the retired executive plans to share her knowledge and network with young women at Brenau University, finding ways to continue to give back in retirement.

Amy Whitley knows the value of hard work. It’s a lesson she learned at 22 years old, when she applied for a management position with UPS and found herself, instead, driving trucks.

Whitley retired from UPS in January 2016 as vice president of human resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer, but she got her start with the company more than 30 years ago as a delivery driver.

“Right out of the gate they gave me a challenge to begin as a package delivery driver,” Whitley says. “I didn’t even know how to drive stick. That’s how it was back then. We tried to get absolutely everyone ground-level experience. I applied for a management job, and they said, ‘We really want you to start at the bottom and work your way up.’”

Thus she began as a “management trainee,” driving a truck for six months, from July through Christmas. It was challenging, but Whitley calls it “the best thing I ever did.”

“Especially as a young woman,” she says. “I went on to supervise drivers as a dispatch supervisor, and I just went up the ranks, supervising men who were twice my age. It served me well to know what they were talking about and going through, that they couldn’t say I hadn’t done it or didn’t know what I was talking about. It gave me credibility.”

An Unparalleled Opportunity

Whitley was a 2016 recruit to Brenau University’s Board of Trustees, after a chance-meeting with longtime trustee Philip Wilheit Sr. and his wife Mary Hart.

Many years ago, Whitley connected with the United Way through her work with UPS. She has since been a longtime giver to the community nonprofit. When she made her 2015 gift, she lived in Alpharetta. However, because she and her family planned to settle in the Lake Lanier area when she retired, they decided to donate to the United Way of Hall County. “I wanted the gift to do good in what would be our hometown,” she says.

Whitley and Wilheit met in 2015 at a United Way donor appreciation dinner in Gainesville.

Brenau Trustee Amy Whitley seated with her dog. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)“I was sitting by her and, of course, through the conversation I found out she was in charge of human resources for UPS,” recalls Wilheit. “We talked about that, but what was most engaging was she had a real interest in helping young women. I told her, ‘We’ve got just the place for you at Brenau.’”

Two months later, Wilheit emailed her about having lunch with university President Ed Schrader. They met at the Buckhead Club in Atlanta, “and the rest is history,” she says.

“We talked about my role at UPS and what he was trying to accomplish at Brenau,” she says. “But it was interesting, because we found that we had this connection in all the different places we lived.”

Throughout her career with UPS, Whitley and her family relocated often. One of the places she lived was a small, hardly heard-of town called Crestwood, Kentucky, the same town in which Schrader and his wife, Myra, lived for several years.

“Long story short, we lived in the same neighborhood in Crestwood, Kentucky,” Whitley says. “We lived across the street from Ed and Myra’s best friends.”

Although the small-world scenario was part of her pull to Brenau, she says the university also offers her a way to continue to use her expertise. For many years, her role in human resources was specifically in diversity and inclusion. Considering Brenau’s diverse student body, Whitley says she saw an opportunity to stay connected, particularly to women and their careers, in retirement.

“She’s going to be a wonderful addition to the board and to the university as a whole,” says Wilheit.

Valuable Experience

Whitley started the Women’s Leadership Development Program at UPS, so seeing women succeed in the workplace is “a real passion” for her. This program expanded to create business resource groups uniting UPS employees globally, and it marked its 10-year anniversary last year.

“It’s something that brought me great joy and satisfaction in my career, particularly in the last decade,” she says.

Her passion and energy for making a difference in the lives of UPS employees is evident, particularly in her leadership to create the program, which has expanded employee resources and provided development opportunities and ways to make a positive impact in the communities in which these employees work, live and volunteer.

She plans to be an active trustee, doing more than sitting in meetings, heralding the university forward with more than her vote and her voice. She wants to connect with young people and help them through the benefits of her experience at UPS. “I want to share those things with them,” she says. “It’s really, to me, about connecting people together. None of us can get anywhere on our own, and I think that’s one of the small things I can do to help young people.”

Whitley is a graduate of Pace University in New York, to which she transferred after two years at Keuka College – then a small women’s college in upstate New York, which has become coeducational since. “I had an affinity for single-gender education, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to somehow get involved in Brenau?’” she says.

Whitley and her husband, Doug, moved to Gainesville full-time in August 2016 with their dog, Cappy. They have two children, Marc, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, and Meghan, a senior studying environmental economics and management at University of Georgia.

UPS, a $58 billion global company with 440,000 employees, is one of the most recognized and admired brands in the world. Whitley was the company’s first diversity and inclusion officer, and she championed the company’s Diversity Steering Council for 10 years.

“Working at UPS taught me about giving back,” Whitley says. “It was really through UPS that I became involved with United Way, and my whole family became exposed to giving back, volunteering and helping. I think that is the value of the culture at UPS, and I sense there is a similar culture at Brenau, one of caring, of doing right by others and strengthening and supporting each other.”

Whitley was a speaker at the 2017 Women’s Leadership Colloquium at Brenau, where she shared her story and business advice with young people. She hopes, while meeting Brenau’s needs as a trustee, to do some mentoring and apply her experience in bettering the lives of hard-working women.

She remembers her late father’s advice, when she called him as a 22-year-old driving delivery trucks. “The first week was exhausting, doing 10- to 12-hour shifts,” she says. “I called him and he said, ‘Hard work never killed anybody.’ I reflected on that so many times in my career. And I tell people often, it is still some of the best advice I ever received.”

Brenau Trustee Amy Whitley with her dog. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

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