In Memoriam: Leonard White '41, Trustee Emeritus, Dedicated Volunteer and Supporter
He served as a naval officer, ran a successful family business and was heavily involved in WPI fundraising and events.
Leonard White '41, WPI Trustee Emeritus and dedicated volunteer and supporter of the university, died Jan. 14, 2014. He was 94.
White was born on April 17, 1919. After graduating from Auburn High School, he entered WPI and received his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. As an undergraduate, he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and Sigma Xi honor society. After graduating, he became a project engineer at the Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey.
In 1943, with World War II consuming the United States, White enlisted in the Navy as an engineer officer and served in the Pacific Theater, eventually as an executive officer and navigator. At the close of his service, White returned home and in 1946 began working for the family business, R. H. White Construction Co. located in Auburn. He was president from 1960 to 1989, served as chairman of the board from 1989 to 2010, and as chairman emeritus since 2010.
When his son, David White '75, enrolled at WPI, White became more involved with the life of his alma mater. Among his many activities, he served on reunion committees and as a class agent, participated in fundraising initiatives, and attended many WPI events over the years. During his time on the Annual Fund Board, White established the President’s Advisory Council, which evolved into the President's Circle, WPI's leadership group of annual donors. This group started with 30 members and has grown to several hundred each year. White served as a WPI trustee from 1977 to 1992 and earned emeritus status in 1992. The WPI Alumni Association recognized his contributions to the university in 1981 with the Herbert F. Taylor Award for Distinguished Service.
"Len White left an indelible mark on WPI through his dedication to his alma mater and his generosity of spirit," says WPI President Phil Ryan '65. "Len and his late wife, Ann, visited campus often over the years and attended his reunions, and it was always a pleasure to see them. He will be sorely missed by his many friends in the WPI community."
White is also among WPI's most generous supporters. His gifts to the university include the Leonard and Ann White Endowed Scholarship Fund, which honors White's late wife and represents his gratitude for her support during their life together. Len proposed to Ann on Earle Bridge, and WPI remained an integral part of their lives; they worked together to advance the university. The Whites also established the Ralph H. White Scholarship Fund and, with David, the Ralph H. White Professorship in Civil Engineering in 1987. The professorship is currently held by Rajib Mallick. White was honored as a member of the 1865 Society, which recognizes lifetime giving to WPI of $1 million to $2.5 million.
Active in business and civic life, White's business memberships included Milford Water Company, Whitinsville Water Company, Auburn Co-operative Bank, American Water Works Association, New England Water Works Association, National Association of Water Companies, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Water Works Association, American Gas Association and New England Gas Association, and Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology. He received the inaugural New England Water Works Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. The service organizations he was affiliated with include The Worcester Club, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts Board of Managers, Mechanics Hall Association, Worcester County Music Association, American Antiquarian Society, and Salisbury Singers. White helped found the Auburn Rotary Club in 1944 and was honored for 67 years of continual service to Rotary as a Paul Harris Fellow in 2012.
White is survived by his four children: Susan Premo and her husband, Walter Premo; Janie Larson and her husband, Bruce Larson; David White '75, MS '76, MBA '84 and his wife, Shirley White; and Wendy Bowen and her husband, Nicholas Bowen. He also leaves nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend calling hours on Friday, Jan. 17 from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Britton-Wallace Funeral Home, 91 Central St., Auburn. A funeral service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. at All Saints Church, 10 Irving St., Worcester. Burial will follow in Hillside Cemetery, 65 Central Street, Auburn.
January 16, 2014