As a promising basketball prospect in the 1950s, Pete White had his pick of colleges across the country and proudly chose West Virginia University. That pivotal decision defined much of his 89 years, sparking a passion for his alma mater reflected in his lasting legacy of service.
White passed away Thursday, Jan. 12, in Sarasota, Florida, with his family by his side. He is remembered by many as a standout athlete, successful businessman and strong supporter of WVU, serving on the WVU Foundation Board of Directors for 42 years.
“We are incredibly grateful for the outstanding service, expertise and enthusiasm of Pete White,” WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth said. “Every time we were together, Pete offered encouraging advice and regularly shared his life and business wisdom with me, for which I am most appreciative. His leadership from the 1960s to the present helped us grow into a fundraising powerhouse prepared to meet the needs of West Virginia’s flagship land-grant institution. We couldn’t have achieved the record numbers we have in recent years without the groundwork he laid during his decades of service. He is a true Mountaineer who will be deeply missed.”
White came to WVU from Clendenin, a small town about 25 miles northeast of Charleston. He lettered for four years in both track and basketball, shooting hoops alongside the legendary Hot Rod Hundley. He was drafted by the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks, but he declined the invitation to fulfill his ROTC commitment to the U.S. Air Force.
White met his wife, Jo, in an English class at WVU. They married shortly after he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1955 and eventually had two children, Anne and Brad.
Following his military service, White began a career in finance and insurance with help from his adviser at WVU. White worked for Northwestern Mutual Life, Connecticut Mutual Life and Acordia of West Virginia and eventually launched his own Charleston-based business, partnering with his son in the 1990s. He was recognized for his professional achievements with many honors and recognitions, including lifetime membership in the insurance industry’s prestigious Million Dollar Round Table.
White’s extensive career experience in business, estate and charitable planning proved to be an asset during his tenure as one of the longest-serving Board members in the history of the WVU Foundation. He was an active member from 1967-2009 and has been an emeritus member since 2011.
W. Marston “Marty” Becker first met White while working for the WVU Foundation as a law student in the 1970s. He later joined White as a member of the Board, and they served together for many years.
“I think the world of Pete and his contributions to the University,” Becker said. “He was always present, always engaged, always trying to be positive in support of what the University was trying to do. … Pete was unique. I don’t know that I ever heard anybody say a bad word about Pete White. He was just a very special person and a great friend.”
Doug Van Scoy remembers sitting at home as a child and listening to Jack Fleming call WVU basketball games when White played. He worked for White early in his career, and White later encouraged him to join the Foundation Board.
“Pete was a class act, a wonderful person,” Van Scoy said. “He did a lot to build the Foundation early on to get it to where it is today, and he was always supportive and showed up for all the events. There was no one more loyal to WVU than Pete.”
Former WVU President Neil S. Bucklew said White was held in high regard by other Board members, who often sought his advice and counsel. The two became friends and enjoyed golfing together, often with former WVU Foundation President Jim Robinson.
Bucklew said he especially appreciated White’s sense of humor and positive spirit.
“When you’re around him, you can bet he’s going to have a smile on his face,” Bucklew said. “He has a warm view of the world, and that’s clothed in his own personal background as part of the University community. … I think of Pete as a great family man, a very successful businessman, a warm personality and someone who had a special place in his life and heart for WVU.”
White was also involved with the WVU Alumni Association, serving in leadership roles with the Kanawha County and West Coast of Florida chapters.
Former WVU President David Hardesty noted that White was particularly well-known and well-respected in the Charleston area. White was a community leader involved with many local causes and organizations, including the West Virginia State Heart Association, Kanawha County Heart Association, West Virginia Allergy Association, Fund for the Arts, Sunrise Museum, Charleston YMCA and more.
White was repeatedly honored for his dedication and service to WVU. He was elected to the Order of Vandalia, WVU’s highest alumni honor, in 2001, and he received the Foundation’s Outstanding Volunteer Philanthropist Award in 2016. In recognition of his basketball career, he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.
Founded in 1954, the WVU Foundation’s mission is to enrich the lives of those touched by West Virginia University by maximizing charitable support and providing services to the University, its students and affiliated organizations.