Nebraska Wesleyan Remembers President Emeritus John W. White, Jr., 1933-2011

Nebraska Wesleyan University’s President Emeritus John W. White, Jr., died Monday, April 18, 2011.

Dr. White served as Nebraska Wesleyan University’s president for 20 years beginning in 1977. During his tenure, he created a legacy of excellence and left a promise for many new opportunities for Nebraska Wesleyan. Some highlights of his tenure include:

  • NWU’s first national recognition as a leading liberal arts college;
  • 35% increase in student enrollment;
  • Increase in the percentage of regular, full-time faculty holding doctoral degrees from 67% to 85%;
  • Impressive number of prestigious scholarship recipients;
  • Construction of Elder Memorial Speech and Theatre Center, and five new athletic facilities including Weary Center for Health and Fitness, Nickerson Field, Sconyers Tennis Courts, Woody Greeno Track, and Abel Stadium;
  • Renovation and refurbishment of Lucas Hall and Old Main;
  • Establishment of Alice Abel Arboretum;
  • Added six sports;
  • Led two of the university’s most successful fundraising campaigns.

"John White led Nebraska Wesleyan superbly, with spirit and focus," said Nebraska Wesleyan University President Fred Ohles. "He knew the importance of sustaining and improving on this school's well-deserved reputation for excellence. He was a friend to me, always reliable in his advice, always paying attention to what was best for Nebraska Wesleyan. We're going to miss him dearly."

Upon his retirement, Dr. White told Archways Magazine that he did not expect to stay at Nebraska Wesleyan for 20 years, but after celebrating the university’s centennial anniversary in 1987, both he and his wife Marty, made a conscious decision to stay in Lincoln.

“Our children had grown up here. We also felt things had gone well, and there were still a lot of things we wanted to accomplish,” he told Archways Magazine. “It was pretty exciting to think about planning for the 90s — the last decade of the century and getting the school ready for the 21st century. So the challenge was rekindled, and it seemed to be the right thing to do.”

In 1997, Dr. White said he would like to be remembered for creating a vision and seeing it happen.

“At a time when Nebraska Wesleyan grew to a new height of academic excellence…A time when we completed the process of putting in place a facility that we needed to be a leading institution in the 21st century and started the process of building the financial base to support it,” White said of his legacy. “The word ‘started’ is there because it’s only begun.”

Following his retirement, Dr. White remained involved in higher education as a consultant in independent higher education in Nebraska and nationally. In recent years he cheerfully and skillfully resumed his service to Nebraska Wesleyan in the part-time role of Counselor to the University.

Nebraska Wesleyan University continued to honor his legacy and leadership. In 2004, the university opened a new suite-style residence hall bearing the name “White Hall,” and in 2008 he was bestowed an honorary degree from NWU.

He is survived by his wife Marty, son Marcus, and daughter Michelle.

A celebration of John’s life will be held Friday, April 22 at 10 a.m. at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 1144 M Street, in Lincoln. Visitation with family is 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Roper & Sons Funeral Home, 4300 O. Street. Memorials may be made to the John W. White and Marty B. White Endowment for International Studies at Nebraska Wesleyan University, 5000 St. Paul Ave., Lincoln, Neb. 68504.

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John W. White, Jr., served as Nebraska Wesleyan University's president for 20 years.
in May 1977, Dr. White (right) becomes the new president as Vance Rogers retires.
Student concerns were a priority for Dr. White pictured here in 1995 with a group of fraternity brothers.
Dr. White and his wife Marty help with the annual "Lend A Hand To Lincoln," an annual service event for first year students.
Dr. White presents awards to deserving friends and alumni of the university.
John W. White, Jr., died Monday, April 18 at the age of 77.