Director of Sales Operations, Webber & Grinnell Insurance; Age 35
In college, Reynolds Whalen said, his dual passions were acting and travel. So, in 2011, he founded a company, called Performing Arts Abroad, that offered international experiences to travelers in music, dance, theater, and film.
He focused especially on collaborating with marginalized communities around the world, using the arts for education, development, and social change, growing the Northampton-based company to more than 160 participants in 2019.
And then the pandemic struck.
“It started as an arts-for-social-change program in Kenya, a country I’ve been involved with for many years,” Whalen recalled. “It grew quickly, and we had a lot of success, but COVID just wiped everything out; performing arts and travel both stopped in their tracks.”
His next role, at Webber & Grinnell Insurance, might not seem like an obvious progression, but he was intrigued by being able to tackle a culture-building role at the agency, while creating a more data-driven model and empowering the team to do their best work as efficiently as possible.
Outside of work, Whalen is active in the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew in Greenfield, serving on the governing board, directing the youth group, and founding a digital ministry during the pandemic; he also serves on the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. In addition, he’s a member of Eggtooth Productions in Greenfield and is a teaching artist for public-school program that uses an immersive theater framework to boost literacy for first- and second-graders.
His heart for the international community still gets a workout, too, serving as board clerk and a member of the finance committee at the International Language Institute in Northampton. He also supports several Afghan refugee families through a Circle of Care group, doing things like taking them to their local survival centers to get registered, showing them how to navigate the bus system, and helping them enroll in free English classes.
“My passion for a long time has been creating understanding amongst people of different cultures and ways of living in the world; the most important thing for our country at this moment in time is access to information about other people and other cultures, and understanding the value that immigrants bring to our community,” Whalen said. “Our community is made stronger by people who are visitors or settling here from other places. Those aspects of the community are particularly important to me.”
— Joseph Bednar