The Emerge Center Names New CEO

Deanna Whittle (Photo from

BATON ROUGE, La.On Tuesday, The Emerge Center announced that Deanna Whittle will take the helm as Chief Executive Officer on July 1. Whittle will succeed Melissa Juneau, who served in the role for the past 12 years. Details were shared in a press release.

A Baton Rouge native, Whittle brings extensive experience from multiple sectors of the healthcare field to Emerge. She began her career as a nurse at Woman’s Hospital and has since served in senior-level roles for multiple local organizations, including Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Ochsner Home Medicare Corporation and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. Most recently, Whittle served as vice president of the southern region at The Innovation Institute, a healthcare innovation company focused on transforming care delivery.

“The Emerge Center, which was founded in 1960 as the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation, has been a real treasure for our community. Under Melissa Juneau’s leadership, we experienced tremendous growth and success,” said Melissa Blake, chair of The Emerge Center board. “We are excited and eager to have Deanna Whittle drive our vision for Emerge forward as CEO and believe her vast experience, passion for our mission and commitment to the children and families we serve will lead to our continued success.”

Whittle will oversee the Emerge enterprise, which includes The Emerge Center, The Emerge School for Autism and The Emerge Foundation.

“The impacts of Emerge are clear as soon as you walk in the door, and I look forward to working with the board of directors and the staff of the center, school and foundation to collectively serve the families that come to Emerge looking for hope,” said Whittle. “I’m also excited to work with the community and all of the donors, partners and stakeholders who have so generously supported Emerge over the years.”

Located in a state-of-the-art facility at LSU’s Innovation Park, The Emerge Center provides innovative therapies to empower children with autism and individuals with other communication challenges to achieve independence. Under the direction of Clinic Director Natalee Menge, The Emerge Center utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach to tailor services to the unique needs of each child.

Born from a demand to extend education services for children with autism, The Emerge School launched in 2018 as the state’s first public charter school specifically designed for children with autism. Led by Principal Leigh Bozard, the School served twenty students within two classrooms at The Emerge Center during its first year of operation. A growth campaign to enable the expansion of the School is underway and construction on a new 7,000-square-foot-facility on Emerge’s campus will begin this summer. The School’s building is expected to be completed by the spring of 2020.

The Emerge Foundation was established in 2018 to provide philanthropic support to The Emerge Center and The Emerge School. Shelton Jones is the Executive Director of the Foundation and her team works across the Emerge enterprise to ensure streamlined and coordinated fundraising efforts.

After an extensive national executive search, Whittle was selected from a field of nearly 200 applicants. Whittle holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Business Administration from the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business.

Categories: People On The Move