Chancellor of California State University: Who Is Timothy P. White?

Friday, October 05, 2012
Chancellor Timothy P. White

There are no shortages of challenges for Timothy P. White, selected Thursday as the new chancellor of the 23-campus California State University (CSU). He succeeds Charles B. Reed, who retired after 14 years at the helm.

The 427,000-student CSU system has undergone steep budget cuts over the past three years and faces another $250 million whack in mid-school year if voters reject Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 on the November 6 ballot. White was selected as chancellor by the CSU board of trustees and is expected to assume his new duties at the end of December. He is currently chancellor of the University of California, Riverside.    

A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, White became a naturalized U.S. citizen after first immigrating with his family, at the age of 10, to Canada. He was the first in his family to earn a college degree and attended all three systems of California higher education. White speaks often of his immigrant experience.

“All I wanted to do was blend in with the other kids on our block—to play football and speak without an accent,” White said at the British Council’s “Going Global” conference in London last August. “I worked hard to learn to do both.  But, in retrospect, somewhere along the way I shook off more of my native culture than I would have liked. Yes, I remember my father’s tales of life in Argentina, but I don’t ‘own’ the traditions and ethos.  I don’t want that to be the experience of our students. If they come here to learn, they should also retain their own unique backgrounds and identities. They should not feel that they must assimilate to be accepted.”

White graduated from Pleasant Hill High School in Pleasant Hill, California, in 1966. He attended nearby Diablo Valley Community College for two years before transferring to California State University, Fresno, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1970. Two years later, he picked up a master of science degree at California State University, Hayward, and added a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1977.

During the latter part of his Ph.D. program, White became involved with the University of Michigan, began his academic career there and stayed for 13 years. He was a post-doctoral scholar and research associate in the Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, at UofM from 1976-78. White was an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology from 1978-82, an associate professor from 1982-89 and a professor from 1989-91. He was department chairman from 1985-91.

In addition to his teaching activities, White was an associate research scientist at the Institute of Gerontology from 1986-90 and a research scientist from 1990-91.

White returned to California in 1991 as a professor in the Department of Human Biodynamics at UC Berkeley, becoming its chairman the next year. He left the school in 1996 to become professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science and dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis. From 2000-04, he was alternately provost, executive vice president and interim president of the university.

White left Oregon in 2004 after a State Board of Higher Education rule on interim assignments excluded him from consideration for “permanent” appointment as university president. He was hired as president by the University of Idaho, Moscow, where he was also a professor of biological sciences in the College of Science.

California beckoned once again, and in September 2008 White accepted the chancellorship at the University of California, Riverside, where he also was professor of biology and biomedical sciences, positions he held until his most recent appointment.

White appeared on the CBS reality television show “Undercover Boss” in May  2011―masquerading as a track coach, a chemistry professor, a campus tour guide and a science library staff member―after donning a fake mustache, false teeth and an earring. The veteran educator earned a “D” grade from the Collared Sheep for his appearance because, “He was fairly spot on when identifying issues, but dropped the ball when it came to resolving them. He missed opportunities in 3 of the 4 jobs―not quite a passing grade, if you ask us.”

White and his wife Karen have four children, Logan, Randy, Tim and Alex.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

UC Riverside Head to Become CSU Chancellor (by Terence Chea, Associated Press)

Timothy White to Leave UC Riverside to be Chancellor of 23-Campus California State University System (by Kris Lovekin, UCR Today)

Timothy P. White Named UC Riverside Chancellor (University of California, Riverside)

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

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