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, http://www.cm.utexas.edu/news/view/191.