Whether testifying before the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, or working to reform international child labor laws, Lois Whitman has been a tireless advocate for children for more than three decades. As founder and director of the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit human rights organization, Whitman managed staff members stationed all over the world, writing reports on abuses and overseeing human rights investigations in locations such as Turkey, the United States, Greece, Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Liberia, Jamaica, Cuba, and Sri Lanka. Under her leadership, the division’s notable accomplishments included getting children released from jail, reforming child labor laws, improving medical treatment for HIV-positive children in Kenya, and stopping the use of child soldiers. Whitman’s writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, the International Herald TribuneNewsdayKathimerini (Athens), and Africa Report.

Having earned a bachelor of arts degree from Smith College and a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University, Whitman was so inspired by President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty that, at age 46, she decided to continue her studies at Rutgers School of Law–Newark. Further inspired by the school’s historic commitment to social justice and public service, she worked in the Urban Legal Clinic and fought housing and employment discrimination with Bedford-Stuyvesant Legal Services and the New York City Human Rights Commission before joining Human Rights Watch. She has taught courses on women and the law at Hunter College, law and social work at the Stony Brook University School of Social Work, and the human rights of children at the Columbia University School for International and Public Affairs.

Still active on the boards of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Physicians for Human Rights, as well as the Board of Visitors of the City University of New York (CUNY) Law School, Whitman received the Smith College Medal in 2002 and the Dean’s Medal from CUNY Law School in 2009. In 2013, the Rutgers Law School Alumni Association presented her with the Fannie Baer Besser Award for Public Service in recognition of her work and commitment to the community and school. Dedicated to expanding college access for poor students, Whitman created the school’s Whitman Family Scholarship in 2008, and has staunchly supported its Loan Repayment Assistance Endowment Fund, which helps offset the debt of graduates who choose to work in traditionally low-paying public service sector jobs.