Advance Illinois Honors the Life and Legacy of Maria Whelan

Posted on June 11, 2020

CHICAGO, IL (June 11, 2020) We are heartbroken to learn of the sudden passing of Maria Whelan, President and CEO of Illinois Action for Children. Maria made it her life’s mission to advocate for children and families across Illinois, and what a champion she was! She was a titan who believed deeply in the power of early childhood education and care and in the value of involving communities and families in the work. 

Maria was a giant in the field of early childhood, but also a fierce, funny and warm friend and colleague.  Her legacy will live on through her family, her colleagues and the hundreds of thousands of lives she has changed for good, and she will be deeply missed by all fortunate enough to know her.  One of the best tributes we can all offer is to carry her work forward with the same level of integrity, fearlessness and no-nonsense she brought to every situation and challenge.

All of us at Advance Illinois extend our hearts and condolences to Maria’s family, the Illinois Action for Children family and all who called her a friend and colleague.  It is hard to imagine this work or this world without her energy in it.

Robin Steans
Advance Illinois


About Advance Illinois
Advance Illinois is an independent policy and advocacy organization working toward a health public education system that enables all students to achieve success in college, career and civic life. Since its founding in 2008, Advance Illinois has become a nationally recognized thought leader in education policy advocacy. To learn more visit

Roderick K. Hawkins, Communications Director

José García, Communications Associate