Dr. Lori S. White is breaking a tradition that’s been long-held at DePauw University when she was announced as the first non-white, non-male president in the school’s 183-year history earlier this month.
“Eighty percent of college presidents are white men,” White said in an interview with the Indianapolis Star. “I happen to be an African-American female. DePauw will be the school’s 21st president, succeeding D. Mark McCoy who has held the position since July 2016.
“Throughout her career, Dr. White has brought a student-centered approach to her work and the work of the institutions she has served,” Board of Trustees chair Kathy Patterson Vrabeck said to in a statement released by the University. “She understands that the student experience is best served when academics, co-curricular experiences and residential life are considered holistically.”
White will soon relocate to Greencastle, Indiana, where DePauw is located, leaving her post as the vice-chancellor for student affairs at Washington University in St. Louis. She is slated to begin her tenure in July. Her position also makes her the only Black woman to be leading a higher learning institution in the state.
At DePauw White will seek to fulfill core values of stakeholders and students including a commitment to diversity and inclusion, directing a path to overturn the school’s recent financial issues and creating a refocused effort to the school’s liberal arts and sciences mission. DePauw, who holds an undergrad degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a postgraduate degree from Stanford, as well as time spent studying at Harvard, is undoubtedly more than qualified and capable.
“I felt I was called to serve in a higher leadership capacity, to change the face of college presidents and hopefully serve as an inspiration to the next generation who can see it’s possible to dream beyond what they believe their capacity is.”
White’s family is no stranger to breaking barriers. Her father Joseph White, was the first Black person to receive a doctorate in clinical psychology from Michigan State University. Because of his work he’s considered to be the “father” of the field of black psychology. White’s sister, Lisa is one of very few African American female paleontologists in the country.
Smith’s career spans over 30 careers working education before landing the job at DePauw. Prior to her time at Washington University which began in 2015, she worked as vice president for student affairs and clinical professor of education at Southern Methodist University. Her career in education also included roles at the University of Southern California, San Diego State University and her alma mater Stanford University.
“I certainly would not have said ‘yes’ to the opportunity to be president of DePauw if I didn’t believe DePauw, as an institution, was committed to continuing to be a place where diverse students would be attracted to study, be welcomed and supported,” she said.