In Memoriam: The Interdisciplinary Legacy of William White (1944 - 2024)

UBC Alums William and Wayne White supported the construction of the William and Wayne Engineering Design Centre.
UBC alumni and supporters Bill and Wayne White at the opening of the Engineering Design Centre in 2011.

Distinguished UBC alum and supporter William White (BASc'67) passed away on March 3rd, one month before his 80th birthday. An eminent investment banker, the mechanical engineer leaves an interdisciplinary legacy at UBC, having helped transform the lives and careers of a generation of engineers. 
Bill and his twin brother Wayne (BASc'67) provided the support that made possible the Wayne and William White Engineering Design Centre. In 2011, the year the Faculty cut the ribbon, the EDC was the only building on campus designed to promote multidisciplinary work across a breadth of engineering programs. 

"An applied professional ahead of his time, Bill was both a talented investment banker and engineer," said James Olson, Dean of UBC Applied Science. "His pioneering contributions have impacted thousands of graduating students, and those careers have impacted BC, Canada and the world." 

The first in their family to attend university, Bill and Wayne White paid their tuition through summer jobs, bursaries and scholarships. In 2007, Bill and his spouse Gale—and Wayne and his spouse Barbara—learned of the proposed new EDC and sought to give back to UBC. 

At that time, the Whites understood that interdisciplinarity was commonplace in industry and would soon be prevalent in education. To prepare future engineers for this reality, the EDC was outfitted with prototyping and fabrication spaces that gave students in disciplines as diverse as mechanical, mining and computer engineering the chance to work and learn alongside one another. The centre also enabled students to leverage their learning, compete internationally and forge industry connections. 

At the EDC's launch on November 2nd, 2011, the brothers remarked: "As alumni, we recognize the great value of engineering education at UBC. We want to encourage everyone else who benefited from their time here to help make sure that today's students have similar advantages." 

In 2016, UBC's Centennial year—and the inaugural year of the Dean's Medal of Distinction—the Faculty selected the Whites as recipients for their involvement in the EDC's development. Over the years, various deans have also sought Bill's advice, bringing his expertise to bear on several landmark Faculty projects. 

UBC Alum and donor William White in the Engineering Design Centre that bears his name.
Bill White visits the UBC Engineering Design Centre which bears his and his brother Wayne's name.

Most recently, the twins were awarded UBC Alumni Builder Awards in 2018 for their "philanthropic support and contributions to engineering at UBC and higher education in Canada." In an illustration of his engineering pride and desire to advance UBC, Bill worked tirelessly to help the Faculty build connections with other alumni, corporate donors and philanthropists. 

Perhaps most importantly, Bill White's enthusiasm for philanthropy and mentorship continues to bring together students in the EDC when their disciplines, at one time, would have taught them to stay within their fields. He saw that we cannot solve social inequity, climate change and other complex world challenges by retreating to our silos, to what is most familiar.
A walk through the EDC is a reminder of his foresight and how Bill White broadened the idea of what a UBC engineering degree can accomplish.    



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