Steve White Leaves a Legacy

Rachel Mills

Behind every good college president is a hardworking and dedicated vice president of instructional services. For the past six years at GCC, that man has been Steve White.

White hails from Chicago, Ill., and attended both the University of Illinois and the local community college. He also held down two part-time jobs, participated in sports and attended summer community college classes. White managed to balance his commitments and graduate from the University of Illinois with a degree in chemistry.

After graduation, White held a string of jobs: truck driver, chef, steel worker, and high school chemistry teacher, to name a few. White said each job offered him new insight and experience.

In 1985, White became an economics professor at GCC.

White’s new job came as a surprise to some because of his chemistry degree. But White explained that his interests in economics had roots in his concerns and interests in social justice and his involvement in the social reform of the 1960s and ’70s.

“My interests in economics had to do with the inequalities in the system,” said White. “It was inevitable that the system created a small number of wealthy and a small middle class.”

Teaching at GCC quickly became a joyful and pleasant experience for White. He enjoyed watching students connect concepts and learn from the lessons. His experiences with his students were something he took pride in. White continued teaching economics for 18 years and eventually became the division chair of social sciences.

White recalled a funny incident when he brought his children to their school’s Institute Day, which is the day before the first day of classes when faculty and staff come together.

He had them approach John Davitt, who was president of the college at the time, onstage while giving a speech to the crowd. White’s children, Elena and Evan, who were both quite young, asked Davitt to give their father a raise. At that time, the teachers and the college were in contract negotiations for raises; incidentally, the contract deals were set and approved by both sides soon afterwards.

White’s parental experiences have also helped him understand what the parents of GCC students want for their children’s education.

In 2001, Chris McCarthy, former Vice President of Instructional Services who had held the office for six years, resigned to become the president/superintendent of Napa Valley College. A temporary replacement for McCarthy was needed, and White was chosen to take the position for six months beginning December 2001. This was soon made a permanent position.

Both Davitt and White remember that “the transition was quite smooth.”
Carolyn Payne, secretary for both McCarthy and White, remembered that White’s transition to the office came naturally, and could not recall any major issues arising from the change.

When White took the office, issues involving declining enrollment, the parking situation and the instructional programs were some of the challenges that he faced.

White helped to improve the quality of the vocational programs on campus and create a larger variety of the instructional programs the college offered.

On the issue of parking, White and his colleagues discussed the idea of the new parking structure, which is currently being built.

“His [White’s] primary concern is the students,” Payne said. She remembered many times when students have needed financial help to succeed in school, and White put great effort into helping these students. Payne said that White once helped out a female student who needed financial assistance for an educational field trip to New York City.

A highlight for White was having the opportunity to participate in a new form of school government, which was democratic. GCC adopted the new system before the other California community colleges were required to adopt it. White explained that he felt honored to have taken part in it.

Both White and Davitt were always concerned about fees and tuition costs. “White was instrumental in the process of passing of Bond G,” Davitt said, referring to a bond measure that provided funds for the college.
He also believed that White played a part in the lowering of fees and tuition.

White also worked to make a better connection with the campus demographic of Armenian students by going overseas and participating in a sister city program with an Armenian town, Gaplain.

White and other dignitaries from the Glendale community including former mayor Frank Quintero, President of the Glendale Board of Education Pam Ellis, and doctors from Glendale Adventist Hospital traveled to Armenia in hopes of gaining an understanding of the culture and history of the country.

As an economics professor, White was amazed to witness the process of an economy repairing itself after the rule of the Soviet Union. The experiences in Armenia also helped him to understand why so much of the Armenian population migrated to Russia and America.

Davitt noticed a change in White’s attitudes towards and interaction with the Armenian students on campus after the trip.

“He became more sympathetic to the students after experiencing their culture and visiting their homeland,” Davitt said.

After a tremendous amount of hard work, White has finally decided to retire from the position and hand it off to Dawn Lindsay
In front of his co-workers and friends, Steve White struggled to open the gift he had received from “Santa” at his retirement luncheon on Dec. 7

“If I didn’t have patience, I wouldn’t have my job,” White joked to the crowd.

At the retirement luncheon in White’s honor, Lindsay shortened her speech out of respect for White, saying that it was “White’s moment.”

After retirement, White hopes to pursue other activities such as traveling, working on remodeling his home, participating in charitable causes and building furniture.

White said that he decided to retire this year because he needed time to pursue these activities. While White could have retired when current president Audrey Levy came on board, he chose to stay an extra six months to help make the transition smoother after Davitt retired from presidency.

Many of White’s colleagues feel that White could never overstay his welcome. “I wish he would stay on,” Davitt said.

Suzanna Lelikyan, a former student worker for White’s office, feels that his knowledge and experience helped him do well in his job as Vice President of Instructional Services.

“He was approachable,” Lelikyan remembers from her two years of working for White.

“It’s been a wonderful ride,” Payne said with a bit of sadness and nostalgia in her voice as she remembered her time with White.