A native Arkansan, John A. White, Jr., completed the requirements for a BSIE degree in 1961 at the University of Arkansas. After a brief period of employment at Tennessee Eastman Company, he embarked on an academic career as a tenure-track instructor at Virginia Tech, from which he received his MSIE degree in 1966. From 1963 to 1966, he taught full-time at Virginia Tech. For the next 3.5 years, he taught at The Ohio State University while pursuing his doctorate. After completing the PhD requirements in December of 1969, he returned to Virginia Tech’s faculty, where he remained until December of 1974, at which time he joined the Georgia Tech faculty. He remained on the Georgia Tech faculty until 1997, when he returned to his undergraduate alma mater to be its chancellor. White stepped down from the chancellor position in 2018 and served as a distinguished professor in the UA industrial engineering department until May of 2019, when he retired. He continues to teach an online advanced engineering economics course for the University of Arkansas.
Except for a 3-year period (1988 to 1991) when he was “on loan” by Georgia Tech to the National Science Foundation to lead the Engineering Directorate and serve as Acting Deputy Director, White continued teaching engineering students, including 3.5 years at Ohio State, 8.5 years at Virginia Tech, 22.5 years at Georgia Tech, and 22 years at Arkansas. In total, he has taught more than 4,000 engineering students. While Georgia Tech’s Dean of Engineering and Chancellor of the University of Arkansas, he taught undergraduate classes.
A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the recipient of honorary doctorates from the Katholieke Universitiet of Leuven in Belgium and George Washington University, White served two six-year terms on the National Science Board. In addition, he served as: president and director of the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award; president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE); chairman of the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES); and president of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM). A Fellow of ASEE, INFORMS, and IIE, a member of Alpha Pi Mu, Golden Key, Omega Rho, Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi, and included in numerous Who’s Who listings, ranker.com ranks him the seventh “most famous” industrial engineer.