Clear choice B. Joseph White, who has been selected to become the UI's 16th president, delivers his first speech on the Urbana campus during a news conference Nov. 2. Current President James J. Stukel, who is retiring in February, and Interim Chancellor Richard Herman were among the UI officials who welcomed White to the Urbana campus. White and his wife, Mary, visited Urbana after his selection was announced earlier in the day in Chicago.
Photo by Kwame Ross
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While millions of Americans were out casting their votes for U.S. president, university officials announced the next UI president. B. Joseph White, who will become the 16th president of the UI, was introduced to the Urbana-Champaign campus Nov. 2 at a late-afternoon news conference at the Illini Union, following an announcement earlier in the day in Chicago.
In introducing White in Urbana, UI Board of Trustees Chairman Lawrence Eppley said that from an initial pool of 150 candidates and five finalists “one person emerged as the clear choice, and he’s with us today.”
White will take over as the university’s top administrator on Feb. 1, upon the retirement of James J. Stukel, who has served as the UI’s president since 1995. The trustees are expected to approve White’s appointment at their next meeting, Nov. 11 in Urbana.
White is the Wilbur J. Pierpont Collegiate Professor, a professor of business administration and a research professor in the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan. His area of expertise is leadership, management and organizational matters.
White said his primary motivation for accepting the UI presidency was his love of leadership work. “I’m thrilled to take on the challenge of leading the university in the years ahead,” White said. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than working with a group of people who have a shared vision, mission and values, who love their organization and set high aspirations together and then do hard work every day. It’s a great individual effort and a great team effort that achieves great things. That’s been the most satisfying set of experiences in my lifetime. To be offered the opportunity, the privilege, to be the next in the relay race of leadership that has produced this great university is just irresistible to me.”
White has had a nearly 30-year affiliation with Michigan, which began when he was a doctoral student in business administration and included appointments as a professor of organizational behavior and industrial relations, as dean of its business school for a decade and as interim president during 2002. From 1993-2001, White served as president of the U. of M. William Davidson Institute, a center for economic and business development in emerging market economics.
In addition to his scholarship, White brings a wealth of experience in the private sector to his new job as UI president, including six years’ experience as a vice president with a Fortune 500 manufacturing company, Cummins Engine Co. Inc. He also serves as an independent director or trustee of several companies, including Equity Residential, Gordon Food Service and Kelly Services, and as board chair for several health-care organizations, including the U. of M. Health System and St. Joseph Hospital, Ann Arbor.
In welcoming White to campus, Stukel said: “It’s so very clear to me that we have a new president who’s going to do spectacular things. For nearly 140 years, this university has been led by 16 different presidents, and this president to be is special. Joan and I have been honored to spend a decade working with you, crying together, cheering together and hopefully making it a better place as the 15th president and spouse. And today I believe this university has made a wonderful leap forward in its selection of Dr. Joseph White and Mary, as president and spouse.”
Eppley praised the 19-member consultative search committee and its chair, College of Business Dean Avijit Ghosh, for their efforts in helping select the new university president.
To help the Whites “jump start their search for the essence” of the university, Interim Chancellor Richard Herman presented them with a copy of faculty member Lillian Hoddeson’s book, “No Boundaries.” He also presented them with several items bearing the Illinois logo, including a
blue-and-orange tie and orange polo shirts “to ensure you are dressed appropriately,” Herman said.
Over the previous weekend, White said he and Mary had discreetly visited the Urbana campus and were “bowled over” by its beauty. They were equally impressed with the President’s House, soon to be their new home on Florida Avenue in Urbana, which they had seen for the first time the day White was introduced to the UI campus as the new president.
White and Mary are the parents of two adult children and also have two grandchildren. Their daughter Audrey, who recently graduated from Michigan and now works as a high-school librarian in Vermont, was excited that her father had accepted the presidency at UI because of the university’s world-class library, White said.
White, 57, a Detroit native, was raised in Kalamazoo, Mich. He earned a doctorate in business administration from Michigan in 1975 and also holds a master’s degree in business administration, with distinction, from the Harvard Business School and a bachelor of science in international economics, magna cum laude, from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.
For more information about the new president search, a biography, history of UI presidents and video of the announcements, visit the university's main Web page.