“When I was going off into the world as an18 year old
heading to college my mother said, ‘whatever you do in life,
make sure you help somebody’. And that too has been a
standard to which I have measured every professional
opportunity and personal challenge, and so that is my why.”
— Milton J. Little Jr.
By Lauren Martinek
Milton J. Little Jr. is an outstanding example of how students in the liberal arts can become pillars of society by dedicating themselves to their communities. Little graduated magna cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse College with a BA in Sociology. He earned an MA in social policy and urban sociology from Columbia University. Then he continued his education with post-graduate studies in public administration at New York University.
Little has synthesized these interrelated areas of study to form a career focused on leveraging philanthropy for the public good—to help people, as his mother so charged him. He is currently President of United Way of Greater Atlanta, one of the largest branches of United Way in the country. Little is the first person of color to hold the position of president in the organization. In addition to his work with United Way, he is also on the board of multiple organizations such as Center for Assessment and Policy Development and the Southern Education Foundation. He is on the list of the 55 Most Powerful People in Atlanta. Before joining the United Way team, Little was Interim President of the National Urban League of New York where he created partnerships with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor and Commerce, as well as with corporations. He has used his skills in philanthropic strategy to create workforce educational programs and to help fund housing. The programs he created have aided communities across the country.
Although he spent his childhood and the early years of his career in the North, Little moved south to Atlanta because he saw the opportunity to have a great impact for a region of communities. The Greater Atlanta Region is in particular need of help. Decades of systematic disparities in housing, education, and employment are only being heightened in the area since Atlanta is one of America’s main hubs of refugee resettlement. According to the Southern Education Foundation the South is an increasingly diverse region with a growing portion of students both of low income and of color. The work that Little does with the United Way of Greater Atlanta is helping to reform the education equity and outcomes for students in the region. In addition to working to improve quality of education, Little also is working with the Regional Commission for Homelessness to reduce homelessness in Atlanta. Reforming education and housing issues ensures that Atlanta as a region can have a stable and vibrant future that embraces its diverse population.
The United Way helps to fund over 200 non-profit organizations in the area. That means Little is helping to orchestrate the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and stake holders. This takes an understanding of how to bring together the manpower, money, and the policy makers to create social change for the public good. He effectively navigates bureaucracies as well as understands the needs of his community. As Rudyard Kipling might phrase it, he “can walk with kings but hasn’t lost the common touch.”
Lauren Martinek is a senior at the State University of New York at Buffalo majoring in environmental studies. The University at Buffalo is home to the Omicron of New York Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.