John W. White, president emeritus of Nebraska Wesleyan University, died on April 18, 2011. The celebration of Dr. White’s life included a responsive reading of Psalms 136, which speaks of the enduring and steadfast love of God. This passage was a favorite of John’s, and Pastor David Lux spoke of God’s enduring love living in and through the life of John White. In a similar vein, John White’s enduring and steadfast love and wise counsel to Nebraska Wesleyan University is part of what we honor in his life.
John White became NWU president in 1977 following the 20-year presidency of Dr. Vance D. Rogers. Known as a “builder” president, Dr. Rogers had transformed the physical profile of NWU. It remained for John to create his own legacy during his 20-year presidency. John likewise added bricks and mortar, but paid special attention to building the faculty, growing student enrollment and earning national recognition of Nebraska Wesleyan University as a leading liberal arts college. Academic excellence was at the heart of John’s belief in and contribution to NWU, and became a principal part of his legacy.
A fitting tribute to John White came from Dr. Fred Ohles, current president of NWU, who officially named Dr. White “counselor to the university” soon after becoming president. However, in a real sense John White had been a counselor to NWU long before he was given that official title. True leaders are really counselors who influence the judgement and action of others by their advice and opinion. As president, he had wisely counseled a generation of Board of Governors, faculty, staff and students on the appropriate nature of a Nebraska Wesleyan education and how to achieve it. It was indeed so very fitting and proper that in his later years he would continue to provide enduring and steadfast love and wise counsel to the university.
Our thanks to John and Marty White for their steadfast and enduring love of Nebraska Wesleyan University, and for very special wise counsel.