Giles Whiting, 31 – Chief operating officer/Executive vice president, Baton Rouge Area Chamber

Among HIS other accomplishments over the past decade, Baton Rouge newcomer Giles Whiting co-founded an education philanthropy that grants scholarships to rising high school juniors and seniors.

He established the Whiting-Leitner Foundation at age 26 in response to the dearth of scholarships based on achievement.

“The scholarship is completely merit-based and is need-blind,” he says. “It just so happens that the recipients have also needed the funds, but our intention was to reward hard work and excellence.”

Whiting grew up in Columbia, S.C., where, at a young age, he was fascinated by physics and its intrinsic focus on problem-solving. He earned an undergraduate degree at the Air Force Academy, where he was president of his class and a member of the track and triathlon team. He still competes today, training more than two hours daily for regular marathons and Ironman competitions.

Whiting intended to become a research physicist, but when he noticed a disconnect between the policymakers who decided science funding and actual scientists, he switched gears and studied science policy the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Whiting worked for global management consultants McKinsey & Company in economic development in the Middle East and Asia. He won McKinsey’s prestigious Global Practice Olympics award for innovation in 2008. Notwithstanding his accomplishments, Whiting says he was at a point in his career where the future was positive but predictable.

“If I wanted to chart the rest of my career path,” he says, “I could have picked any age, and I could have told you what I would be doing and what clients I would be serving.”

That awareness might have provided security, but Whiting says it lacked inspiration. So when the opportunity arose to move to Baton Rouge, a city purported to be redefining itself, he took a chance.

“What sold me on Baton Rouge was the energy that was apparent and consistent among young professionals,” Whiting says. “Everyone had a consistent vision about what the city could be and there were folks who were willing to do what it takes to realize that vision.”

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