Reynolds Whalen – Business West

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Director of Business Operations, Webber & Grinnell Insurance; 35 years

In college, said Reynolds Whalen, his dual passions were theater and travel. So, in 2011, he founded a company, called Performing Arts Abroad, which offered international experiences for travelers in music, dance, theater and film.

He has particularly focused on working with marginalized communities around the world, using the arts for education, development and social change, growing the Northampton-based company to over 160 participants in 2019.

And then the pandemic hit.

“It started as an arts for social change program in Kenya, a country I have been involved in for many years,” Whalen recalls. “It grew quickly and we had a lot of success, but COVID just wiped it all out; the 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 the possibility of tackling a culture-building role within 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 Saints James and Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Greenfield, serving on the board, leading the youth group and founding digital ministry during the pandemic; he also serves in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Additionally, he is a member of Eggtooth Productions in Greenfield and is a teaching artist for a public school program that uses an immersive theater setting to stimulate literacy in first and second graders.

His heart for the international community also continues to hone, as Registrar of the Board and member of the Finance Committee of the International Language Institute in Northampton. He also supports several Afghan refugee families through a Circle of Care group, taking them to their local survival centers to register, showing them how to navigate the bus system and helping them sign up for free English lessons.

“My passion for a long time has been to create understanding between people of different cultures and lifestyles around the world; the most important thing for our country right now 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 strengthened by people who are visitors or who move here from other places. These aspects of the community are particularly important to me.

—Joseph Bednar

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