Professor John M. White Passes Away

Pro­fes­sor John M. (Mike) White passed away sud­den­ly and unex­pect­ed­ly on Fri­day, August 31, 2007, while vis­it­ing his son in Okla­homa City. Since 1966, Mike worked for the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas for 41 years as a well-loved chem­istry pro­fes­sor, served as the Chair­man of the Chem­istry Dept. and Direc­tor of the Sci­ence & Tech­nol­o­gy Cen­ter. Mike held the pres­ti­gious Robert A. Welch Chair in Chem­istry and had been with The Uni­ver­si­ty, when he was hired as an assis­tant pro­fes­sor fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of his Ph.D. at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois. His research inter­ests spanned a wide range of top­ics relat­ed to sur­face and mate­ri­als chem­istry, and he was one of the pio­neers in pho­to­chem­istry. A major con­tri­bu­tion to the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty was his exploita­tion of the tech­niques of sur­face physics for the inves­ti­ga­tion of a vari­ety of sur­face chem­i­cal prob­lems.

From 1991–2002, White served as Direc­tor of one of the ear­li­est Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion-fund­ed sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy cen­ters, head­ing up a team of twelve fac­ul­ty, five post­doc­tor­al fel­lows, and twen­ty-five grad­u­ate stu­dents from four UT depart­ments. His Cen­ter for Syn­the­sis, Growth and Analy­sis of Elec­tron­ic Mate­ri­als was fre­quent­ly held up by NSF offi­cials as a mod­el of superb research, man­age­ment, and report­ing for oth­er inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tions. He also spent time research­ing for the Fritz- Haber Insti­tute in Berlin, Ger­many and most recent­ly for the Pacif­ic North­west Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Rich­land, WA direct­ing the Insti­tute for Inter­fa­cial Catal­y­sis.

Pro­fes­sor White grad­u­at­ed more than fifty doc­tor­al stu­dents, pub­lished over 650 schol­ar­ly arti­cles, and served a term as Chair of the Depart­ment of Chem­istry and Bio­chem­istry dur­ing his forty-one years at The Uni­ver­si­ty. Many of his for­mer stu­dents and post­doc­tor­al fel­lows now teach in uni­ver­si­ties around the world. He men­tored numer­ous new fac­ul­ty and part­nered with them on research projects, help­ing to secure hard-to-get grant fund­ing. He engaged large num­bers of under­grad­u­ates in research and encour­aged them to con­tin­ue with grad­u­ate stud­ies. Many of these under­grads pub­lished results in ref­er­eed jour­nals and made pre­sen­ta­tions at pro­fes­sion­al meet­ings. Noth­ing made him proud­er than see­ing his stu­dents suc­ceed, and in his work, his students—not his stel­lar reputation—were by far his top pri­or­i­ty.

In 2004, White began a joint research appoint­ment with Pacif­ic North­west Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ries that led to the estab­lish­ment of the Depart­ment of Ener­gy’s Insti­tute for Inter­fa­cial Catal­y­sis at PNNL, and in Feb­ru­ary, 2005, he was named its first Direc­tor, a post he held until his death.

If you wish to donate to the Endow­ment Fund for a Grad­u­ate Stu­dent Fel­low­ship in Mem­o­ry of Mike White, and/or if you wish to make a com­mit­ment for a future con­tri­bu­tion to this fund, please sim­ply make a check out to UT Austin, or The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Austin, impor­tant­ly adding in the memo field on the check “in mem­o­ry of Mike White”, or write a let­ter of com­mit­ment with the pro­posed amount and future date, and mail it to:
Attn: Tim Aron­son
Col­lege of Nat­ur­al Sci­ences, Office of the Dean
The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas
1 Uni­ver­si­ty Sta­tion G2500
Austin, Texas 78712–0549
Sto­ry in part from Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas web­site,