A native of Bangkok, Thailand, Saisuree Chutikul received a B.A. in music from Whitworth in 1956. She completed her master’s and doctoral degrees at Indiana University, and she also studied composition at the University of Washington. She has performed as a pianist with the Royal Tyai Navy Orchestra as well as with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, and has been a driving force for music performance in Thailand.
But Chutikul, who received an honorary doctorate from Whitworth in 1988, is known for much more than her impressive musical accomplishments. In the 1960s and early ’70s she served on the faculty and administration of several universities and was a consultant for the U.N. and UNICEF. She began serving in the Thai government in 1980.
As a cabinet minister, Chutikul initiated changes in laws benefiting women and children in Thailand. As a senator, from 1996-2000, she helped reform laws relating to child labor and sexual harassment in the workplace. Her efforts since 1989 as a member of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women have included advocacy for women’s rights, building research programs related to children and women, decentralizing women’s development projects to rural areas, and seeking assistance for girls at risk for prostitution and child labor.
Chutikul has published more than 30 books and articles, and she currently serves on the board of World Vision International, as a committee vice chair of the U.N. Committee of the Rights of the Child, and with numerous other international groups devoted to the rights, health and prosperity of women and children.
In 2004, Chutikul was honored with Whitworth’s Distinguished Alumna Award for her tireless work in human rights.