Lori S. White was inaugurated today as DePauw University’s 21st President – and the first woman and first person of color to lead the 184-year-old institution – in a ceremony punctuated by beautiful weather , colorful college badges, inspirational songs and catchy speeches.
The event was historic not only because White is a first, but also because his presidency began in the midst of a global pandemic – a situation very evident during the ceremony, where attendees were required to wear masks.
She was hired unanimously in March 2020 by the university’s board of trustees, just five days before in-person classes were suspended and students were sent home. She took office on July 1, 2020, but her inauguration has been postponed until today due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and her first year at the helm of DePauw was spent in near isolation, the students, faculty and staff working remotely for most of the last academic year.
In her speech, delivered after Board Chair Kathy Patterson Vrabeck ’85 slipped the Presidential Medallion onto the President’s head, White pledged “to faithfully exercise all the rights and privileges that come with all the bling. that I just received and remembering that leadership is most effective when it is exercised in the service of others and for the greater good. She asked those gathered to support her.
She also cited three challenges to higher education that DePauw faces: A decline in public confidence; a decline in the number and geographic composition of prospective DePauw students; and “a long-standing misunderstanding of the value of the liberal arts”. The answer, she said, “lies before me, in the hearts and minds of those gathered today. It resides in the countless strengths of this community and its people. And I am convinced that together we will rise again.
It was a reference to the opening theme, “Rise,” based on the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, one of White’s favorites. The ceremony featured several songs, including a performance of Rosephanye Powell’s song “Still I Rise” by the DePauw Chamber Singers and “The Impossible Dream”, sung by Chloe Johnson ’22.
Student leaders and representatives of Greek organizations; DePauw faculty and staff; old students; and delegates from more than 50 higher education institutions across the country attended and marched in procession to the lawn near the iconic East College. Also in attendance were many of White’s family, including her husband, Tony Tillman, DePauw’s Dean of Academic Success and Student Equity; her mother, Myrtle Escort White; and sisters Lynne White Kell and Lisa White. Her father was the late Joseph White, known as the godfather of black psychology.
The ceremony began with an invocation and libation ritual, led by Thomas Parham, president of California State University, Dominguez Hills. The ritual of celebration, as performed by many black Americans, is the offering of drink to ancestral spirits.
English teacher Eugene Gloria, creative arts and performing arts teacher John Rabb Emison, read his poem, “Outside of Eden,” which he wrote for the occasion.
During his opening speech, Holden Thorp, to whom White reported when he was provost and vice-chancellor of the University of Washington, referred to the early leaders of DePauw, then called Indiana Asbury College – Matthew Simpson, its first president, and Washington C. DePauw, the benefactor who saved Asbury from financial ruin and for whom the university was later named. Thorp is now the editor of the Science family of journals.
“They are smiling,” Thorp said, “because their vision is very much alive and has been entrusted to someone who is uniquely prepared to realize it and adapt it to today; someone who understands and values the vision. liberal arts tradition while at the same time realizing that it can only survive and prosper if it is honestly questioned and modified as needed; someone who understands that an institution is not just a bank account and a filled textbook politicians, that this is a messy, dynamic bunch of smart, stubborn people – who are only trying to change the world. ”
As for White, said Thorp, “there is absolutely no one in higher education better prepared to bring together and maintain a campus, which is what you hired her to do. You did well because there is no one more honest. No more policy makers. No better cheerleader. No better listener. No better leader. No greater champion for the students.
Biography of President White:
Lori S. White was inaugurated as the 21st President of DePauw on October 1, 2021. She assumed the presidency on July 1, 2020 and succeeded D. Mark McCoy.
White was chosen by an 18-member presidential search committee that worked eight months to identify DePauw’s next leader. The committee was chaired by Justin Christian ’95 and was made up of alumni, faculty, staff, students and administrators. Interest in DePauw’s presidency was high, with college presidents, vice presidents and business executives looking to be considered.
In addition to the presidency, White holds the rank of Professor of Educational Studies at DePauw.
She came to DePauw from the University of Washington, where she was vice-chancellor for student affairs. She has over 40 years of experience in both student-focused leadership and academic roles. Previously, she was Vice President of Student Affairs and Clinical Professor of Education at Southern Methodist University; associate vice president for student affairs at the University of Southern California; Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at San Diego State University; and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Undergraduate Education and Director of Undergraduate Counseling at Stanford University.
White received an undergraduate degree in psychology and English from the University of California at Berkeley and a doctorate in educational administration and policy analysis from Stanford. She also attended the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education at Harvard University.
Media inquiries: Mary Dieter, 765-658-4286, 317-809-5417 or [email protected].