In memoriam: W.S. “Pete” White Jr., alumnus, benefactor, and former rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors
W.S. “Pete” White Jr., former rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors and one of a handful of Virginia Tech engineering alumni who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering — a recognition of his distinguished four-decade career at American Electric Power, died July 4 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was 94.
Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, to the late Willis S. White Sr. and Carrie Culpepper White, White served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, he graduated from Virginia Tech’s electrical engineering department in 1948 and joined American Electric Power as an electrical engineer.
Except for a short period serving the Defense Electric Power Administration during the Korean War, White spent his entire career at American Electric Power, ultimately serving as CEO and chairman of the board, retiring from the company in 1992. He also served as the first American chairman of CIGRE International, a director of the Bank of New York Mellon, chairman of Battelle Institute, and was a special envoy to Poland for President George H. W. Bush.
White was a devoted alumnus of Virginia Tech, serving on its Board of Visitors from 1981 until 1989, culminating with his appointment as rector. He was a member of the College of Engineering’s Committee of 100, was a member of the university’s William B. Preston Society, and also was a former director of the Virginia Tech Foundation.
White received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1989, the William H. Ruffner Medal (for service) in 1990, the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1991, and was inducted into the university’s Academy of Engineering Excellence in 1999.
In 1985, White helped to establish the AEP Professorship of Electrical Engineering in the College of Engineering. In turn, AEP chose to honor its former CEO by establishing the W.S. “Pete” White Chair for Innovation in Engineering Education. The establishment of this chair in White’s honor allows Virginia Tech to generate new interest in the teaching of engineering and in improving the learning process.
In addition to his commitment of service and support of Virginia Tech, White also was president of the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce, as well as president of the Blue Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In Ohio, he was a campaign chairman of the United Way of Franklin County, a chairman of Riverside Methodist Hospital, and board member of Ohio Health. White was also a board member of the Ohio Methodist Theological Seminary.
White is survived by his wife, Adele McComas White; children Willis S. White III, Marguerite W. Spangler and her husband Pat W Spangler, and Cynthia White-Haight; grandchildren M. Lee Spangler II, Nicholas W. Spangler, Alexander J. Haight, and Charles Z. Haight; and two great-grandchildren, Owen and Collins Spangler. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife, LaVerne B. White.
A visitation will be held on Friday, Aug. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Schoedinger Upper Arlington Ohio, 1740 Zollinger Road, Columbus, Ohio. A service will be held on Saturday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1581 Cambridge Boulevard, Columbus, Ohio.
For those who wish, memorials may be made to Kobacker House Hospice, Trinity United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio, and Alive Hospice in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.