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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alumnus Chris Whittle, founder and CEO of Edison Schools Inc., received an Accomplished Alumnus award from the university while on campus Oct. 21. The award program is sponsored by the UT Knoxville Office of Alumni Affairs.

Whittle spoke on “The Rise of Global Schooling” to more than 100 people. His lecture was hosted by UT’s Center for Educational Leadership.

Whittle established Edison Schools — now known as EdisonLearning Inc. — in 1992. The country’s largest for-profit organization for managing public schools, EdisonLearning currently contracts with schools in the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

Whittle also is known for his more than 20 years in media. After graduating from UT Knoxville and starting the “Knoxville in a Nutshell” magazine with others, he started the 13-30 Corp. In 1979, 13-30 bought Esquire magazine and saved it from extinction.

After selling Esquire to the Hearst Corp. in 1986, he formed Whittle Communications, which focused on publishing single-advertiser magazines. He also launched Channel One News in 1989. The brief news program for teens broadcasted to four high schools that first year before going national in 1990. Whittle sold Channel One in 1994. The programming is now broadcasted to more than 12,000 schools across the country.

Today, Whittle remains affiliated with EdisonLearning as a member of its board. His book, “Crash Course,” which called for dramatic increases in government research and development funds in education, has influenced thinking in both government and foundation circles. Whittle continues to advocate for education reform as an active director at the Center for Education Reform. He also is developing a new education company called Avenues — The World School.

The Accomplished Alumni program is designed to attract alumni of note to campus to share their success stories. Alumni who are honored through this program spend time on campus teaching students, sharing dialogue with faculty and engaging with other alumni and friends of the university. A variety of outstanding alumni have been featured in this program including CEOs of major corporations, Olympians, authors, artists, musicians, U.S. ambassadors and civic leaders.

For more information on the Accomplished Alumni program and to view other recipients, visit


Patrick Wade (865-974-3011,

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