Martha Figueroa

June 16, 2020

Remembering Maria Whelan

I remember the first time I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Maria, it was at “Coffee with Maria”. She was such a refreshing image of how a person in leadership should be. She was straight forward, didn’t hold back with her words, very funny and down to earth. She spoke with authority and a wealth of knowledge. She was relatable which made her believable. I knew after meeting Maria that I wanted to be a part of Illinois Action For Children team/family.

When I returned to the office I was greeted by many of my colleagues inquiring (with a smile) how Coffee with Maria went? I remember saying that I never met someone like her especially in the position she held which was extremely refreshing! They continued to smile and agreed, adding “that’s Maria!” From that day on anytime new hires came aboard and attended “coffee with Maria” I found myself joining other colleagues and asking our newly hired colleagues the same question they had asked me when I first met Maria, and amazingly they would give the same response I had given when I was first asked and even more amazing I was now able to respond the same way my colleagues had responded to me. Maria embodied true leadership and she will be GREATLY missed. The world lost a great leader, a great motivator, a great Person, a great everything.

On the day she transitioned, it rained and thundered. I said to my supervisor “that’s Maria already stirring up things up there”. The image of it brought a smile to my face because i would like to think that even in passing that spirit of hers will live on for eternity.