A major turning point in Carolyn Miles’ marketing career came while she was traveling in the Philippines. An impoverished woman carrying a baby approached her car. The little child looked about the same age as Miles’ second son, and Miles was struck by the wide gulf between their future prospects.
The 1988 alumna of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business decided then to switch to the nonprofit sector and dedicate her life to the welfare of children in need.
Almost 20 years ago, she began working for Save the Children, and in 2011, became its president and CEO.
For her compassionate and successful efforts, UVA’s Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center has named Miles its 2017 Distinguished Alumna and will present her the award on April 26 at a private reception.
In a letter supporting her nomination for the honor, Scott C. Beardsley, dean of the Darden School, wrote, “Miles’ contributions to the world … reflect the spirit of excellence and the ethic of service for which a University of Virginia education stands.” He and former Darden Dean Robert Bruner also said she has been an active alumna, serving on the Darden School Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Under Miles’ leadership, the number of children Save the Children reaches has more than doubled, to 165 million in 120 countries, including the United States. Its programs provide nutrition, health, education and other services. Miles travels regularly to be involved directly in these programs, going to places such as Syrian refugee camps in nearby countries.
Political analyst Cokie Roberts, a member of the Save the Children Board of Trustees, wrote that after reading the UVA Women’s Center’s mission statement, she thought Miles could not be a more appropriate recipient.
“Your goals of fostering the respect, safety and dignity of women and girls, working for gender justice, developing leadership and working with partners for social change describe Carolyn’s daily life,” Roberts wrote.
(Read the UVA Today interview with Miles from November, when she was named one of People magazine’s 25 women changing the world, here.)
Miles joins an esteemed group of awardees, including Dr. Vivian Pinn, who directed the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health; Kathryn Thornton, a former NASA astronaut who was the first mother to walk in space and now heads UVA’s aerospace engineering program; and journalist Kimberly Dozier, who in 2006 survived a car bombing when covering the war in Iraq. Last year’s honoree, law alumna Elizabeth Garrett, who became the first female president of Cornell University, unexpectedly died of colon cancer before receiving the award.
The Women’s Center established the Distinguished Alumna Award in 1991 to recognize a UVA graduate, its website says, “who has best demonstrated excellence, leadership and an extraordinary commitment to her field, and who has used her talents as a positive force for change.”