The William D. Reimert Lecture

Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman Discusses Women's Leadership at Cedar Crest

Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, focused on women's leadership while delivering the William D. Reimert Lecture to a crowd of more than 350 students and community members at Cedar Crest College on October 22.

Among other things during the 30-minute address and question and answer session, Whitman said more women need to seek leadership roles in the workforce and the political arena.

"Don't think about what happens if you fail; think about what happens if you don't try. I believe women need to become more involved in the political process. We need women at the decision-making table for their insights and experiences," she said, noting that less than 1 in 5 in the U.S. Congress are women.

Whitman attended Wheaton College, a traditionally women's college that has since become co-educational. She understands the value of a women's college education, and implored students in the audience to put the knowledge and leadership skills they are developing at Cedar Crest College to good use.

"A strong, well-educated woman is important for a lot of reasons. There are wonderful opportunities here. This is the time for you to find your passion," she said. "Use the education you're getting here today to make a difference in the world. You do not have to be president of the United States or a college to make a difference."

Whitman worked with Cedar Crest College President Carmen Ambar to help save Douglass College at Rutgers University in 2005, when the University proposed a plan to close the women's college. Thanks in large part to their efforts, the school is still open today.

"You have a tremendous leader here. She and I did share that moment, and it was an important moment. The important thing is for people to be able to choose (the education) that is right for them," said Whitman.

Ambar said she enlisted Whitman's help in saving Douglass College because "when I need support, I call in the big guns." She said the former governor's credentials and experience left her "perfectly positioned to come to Cedar Crest to talk about women's leadership."

Whitman served as the 50th governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001—the only female to ever hold the office in state history—and as the ninth administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, during former President George W. Bush’s administration.

As governor, Whitman earned praise from both Republicans and Democrats for her commitment to preserve a record amount of New Jersey land as permanent green space. She was also recognized by the Natural Resources Defense Council for instituting the most comprehensive beach monitoring system in the nation. As EPA Administrator, she promoted common-sense environmental improvements such as watershed-based water protection policies. She also championed regulations requiring non-road diesel engines to reduce sulfur emissions by more than 95 percent, and established the first federal program to promote redevelopment and reuse of “brownfields,” or previously contaminated industrial sites.

She is currently the president of The Whitman Strategy Group (WSG), a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues. Whitman is also co-chair of the Republican Leadership Council (RLC), which she founded with Senator John Danforth. The RLC’s mission is to support fiscally conservative, socially tolerant candidates. She is the author of a New York Times bestseller titled, It’s My Party Too, which was published in January of 2005 and released in paperback in March 2006.

Former Governor Whitman is on the steering committee of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey; the board of trustees of the Eisenhower Fellowships; the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations; the governing board of the Park City Center for Public Policy; and is a member of the board of the New America Foundation.