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Remembering Urban Whitaker

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog post regarding the passing of one of CAEL’s founding members, Urban G. Whitaker. He passed peacefully in his sleep at Lytton Gardens Senior Community in Palo Alto on Friday, November 13, 2015. I was fortunate to have been able to work closely with him during his tenure at CAEL.

Urban’s contributions to CAEL are tremendous, and we continue to use many in our mission to help adult students succeed. In 1974, Urban was part of the implementation committee that helped form what we now know as CAEL. He remained on the committee throughout the 1970’s and also joined the CAEL Board of Trustees.

During the 1980’s, Urban helped spread CAEL’s mission in California as CAEL’s regional manager. He also facilitated PLA workshops and trained others on CAEL’s standards of assessing learning nationally and abroad. One of his greatest contributions to higher education was the book Assessing Learning: Standards, Principles and Procedures in 1989. Widely used by CAEL and others interested in higher education and experiential learning, it has set the tone for much of the work we do. As we prepare to release the third edition in the coming months, it is hard to express how much gratitude we have for the groundwork he laid out for past, current and future practitioners in the experiential learning landscape.

His enthusiasm for helping lifelong learners achieve their dreams did not go unnoticed as he was bestowed with the Morris T. Keeton Award in 1994 for his significant contributions in the field of adult and experiential learning. Throughout all his contributions to CAEL, Urban continued to teach at San Francisco State as part of the International Relations department.

Prior to his endeavors within higher education, Urban served in combat during two wars, World War II and the Korean War. Urban also served on numerous boards, including: United Nations Association, the World Federalists Association and the Commission to Study the Organization of the Peace. Married for 57 years, Urban is survived by his three children and four grandchildren.

CAEL and all the advocacy we do for adult learners would not be possible without Urban. We have lost not only a great visionary within higher education, but also a kind soul who strived to make the world a better place for all. If you would like to leave a note for his family, you can do so by clicking here


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