Photo of Urban Whitaker

Urban Whitaker, 1924-2015

PLA Inside Out


Dr. Urban Whitaker, with whom many of us in the PLA/RPL world had the pleasure of working and learning, died at the age of 91 on 13 November 2015 in Palo Alto, California.

After earning his Ph.D. in Political Science and Far Eastern Studies at the University of Washington, Urban became a member of the International Relations faculty at San Francisco State University. He taught and served as an administrator there for 41 years.

Urban was one of the founding members of CAEL (the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) and, for more than 25 years, helped to facilitate workshops on experiential learning and prior learning assessment, including, for many years, significant work at the National Institute on the Assessment of Adult Learning sponsored by Thomas Edison State University (New Jersey). Urban Whitaker was the author of Assessing Learning: Standards, Principles and Procedures (1989: CAEL), the bible of assessment for legions of PLA practitioners over decades.

In 1994, Urban Whitaker was awarded the Morris T. Keeton medal for “Excellence in Adult and Experiential Learning.” He was also recognized for his contributions to our common work with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Thomas Edison State University in 2011.

Many of us will remember Urban’s kind and gentle ways, and his effectiveness in communicating the importance of paying attention to the abundant learning that adults bring to our colleges and universities and to assessing that learning with fairness, patience and care.

We will miss Urban Whitaker.

Alan Mandell and Nan Travers