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James David White

June 14, 1935 February 10, 2020
James David White
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Obituary for James David White

James David White ,84, died at Evergreen Hospice House on February 10th ,  2020. James was born in Bristol, England to Cecil and Dorothy White.  After his home was bombed by the Germans, his family moved to India where he attended Sherwood College School in Nainital. With Indian independence, James and his family returned to Devon. James was enrolled in Blundells Secondary School where he excelled in his course work as well as on the cricket and rugby pitches. and ultimately earned a scholarship to Cambridge. It was there that he met his first wife, Muriel. They came together to North America in order to pursue his graduate education. In 1965 James received his doctorate from M.I.T. and took his first academic position at Harvard. He joined the Chemistry faculty at Oregon State in 1971 and he was still actively publishing earlier this year. Over the course of his career his work received national and international recognition including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Centenary Medal and the American Chemical Society’s Arthur C. Cope Award. He was a Distinguished Professor at Oregon State and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cambridge. But it was mentoring his many doctoral students and post-doctorates as well as his junior colleagues that he found most rewarding; he took great pleasure in their work together and their many subsequent successes.            

In addition to his career, James was an active member of Timberhill Racquet Club and an accomplished and enthusiastic player. He loved to ski, often hitting the slopes with colleagues from the department.  His second wife, Valerie Bishop, joined him on the court and the slopes and also introduced him to sailboarding. With Valerie’s passing and as he moved toward retirement his energy transitioned to his garden and travel. Jim and his partner Wendy McKee travelled extensively with the M.I.T. alumnae travel program.  London was a favorite stop as they enjoyed its classical music scene and took advantage of live performances at Wigmore Hall. At home, the local music scene was also a draw and they were frequent attendees at Corvallis Chamber Music performances as well as active supporters of the Corvallis Steinway series.              

James is survived by his daughters, Julie White and Amy Blake, as well as his three grandchildren, Logan and Andrew Blake and Joanna White. A Memorial Service will be held Sunday, June 14th at 3pm in the garden that was both his pride and his joy: 2067 Wooded Knolls, Philomath. We hope his colleagues and friends will join us in a celebration of his life.

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