During an eventful 40-year career, Meg Whitman has become one of Silicon Valley's most storied CEOs. She is best known for taking a small auction website called eBay from $5.7 million to $8 billion in sales as CEO, a mind-boggling accomplishment which only took her ten years. During her tenure at eBay she also went against the objections of many top executives by acquiring another relatively young company called PayPal for $1.5 billion, a fraction of what it is worth now.
After leaving eBay, Whitman famously ran for California governor in 2010 on the Republican ticket, and lost to Jerry Brown. Then in 2011, when Hewlett-Packard named her CEO, Whitman became the only woman to have headed two large U.S. public companies. Over the years, Whitman has held executive positions at companies such as Hasbro Inc., Florida Transworld Delivery, and the Walt Disney Company. She currently sits on the board of directors for several companies: Immortals, The Esports Company, Procter & Gamble, and Teach for America, a nonprofit to which she donated $10 million, thus establishing her as one of the most generous and effective business leaders in the country.
But when Whitman entered Princeton University in 1973, she had initially planned on going into medicine, not business. It was only after spending a summer selling magazine advertisements that she changed over to the study of economics. Whitman, who entered Princeton just a few years after it began admitting undergraduate women for the first time, played squash and lacrosse, and said that she "loved every minute" of her college experience.
"I had a great time as a Princeton undergraduate," said Whitman. "The University inspired me to think in ways that have guided me throughout my life. I'm pleased that I can help bring Princeton to more students and that my gift will benefit the University for generations to come."
The gift she is referring to is the $30 million she donated in 2002 to her alma mater, funds for them to build a 500-student residential college bearing her name. Whitman's gift underscores her commitment and service to Princeton. That same year she delivered the Baccalaureate speech to graduating seniors.
In addition, she has served as a trustee since 2000 and is a member of the board's Executive Committee. Notably, both of her sons attended Princeton and she has supported various teaching and athletics initiatives through the years, including Princeton's Women in Leadership Initiative, an effort launched in 1998 to encourage alumnae to participate as philanthropists and volunteers. Although the WIL is mainly intended to inspire the next generation of women philanthropists, Whitman is unquestionably a strong role model for women and men alike.