E. Bernard White, worked at Mason from January 1989 to June 2011, when he retired. He passed away on Friday, September 20, 2013.
Comments and condolences submitted at the time of Dr. White’s passing:
Dr. Bernard White was the first person I met from the Volgenau School when I arrived at GMU for orientation. That level of involvement – that willingness to meet the incoming freshmen personally – would come to characterize my Mason experience. Dr. White was always prompting me to get involved in opportunities through the Volgenau School, whether it was taking a position as a departmental tutor or engaging in independent research with a faculty member. I remember how he personally counseled me on my academic plans, and took genuine interest in not only my own progress, but the progress and successes of every student at the Volgenau School. He was always looking to give students every advantage he could, by reminding us about scholarship opportunities, job openings, research programs, and professional society meetings. One particularly fond memory I have of Dr. White is when he invited me and several other tutors to a special meeting to kick off the Peer Mentor program. This was an initiative he created to pair up a hand-picked set of tutors with struggling freshmen and sophomore engineering students, with the goal of providing them the academic support and encouragement they needed to stay off academic probation and succeed at GMU. I remember how passionate and excited he was about this idea, about the potential to really impact the lives of students. Dr. White always had the best interests of the students at heart. He truly cared about us.
Dr. White, thank you so much for everything!
– John Guenther, Class of 2011
Bernard was a man who would go out of his way to help a student but he was a man that many students “feared”. When he heard of a student who was struggling, but trying, Bernard would bring that student in and find a way to help that student move forward toward the goal of staying at Mason and graduating. However, when a student tried to “game” the system or to claim “It just happened” or “I don’t know”, Bernard would not let that student “off the hook”. Bernard would sit that student down and insist that student face his own responsibility for his own “predicament” – SCARY! – (often the first time anyone actually required the student to face their own responsibility!). And THEN Bernard would work with that student to find a way to move forward to a rewarding goal. Bernard was a man of strong integrity.
From the time I joined George Mason University in 1989, I saw Bernard as the man “on the front lines” – at Admissions Open Houses and recruitment events, at Engineering School information sessions and “fun” activities, at Community College events – encouraging students to become engineers and to come and take advantage of engineering at George Mason. He put in the “normal” hours during the day and work week, but then, on a regular basis he was on campus evenings and Saturday or Sunday. He found time to accomplish all the time consuming “administrative” tasks that came with his position, but then to go beyond that and spend time with students – present and prospective.
I understood and respected (most of) his decisions, recognizing that he had to uphold “University Policy” even when I (or he) did not agree with it. But I really and strongly appreciated his nearly 100% support for *my* decisions with students, when they were appealed up to his level. He was fair with students but he supported the Engineering School faculty and their interactions with students. This made my job a whole lot easier.
When I needed help to understand (or to perhaps “bypass”) University Policies and politics, I would drop by Bernard’s office to chat or brainstorm. It was rare that I would leave without a solution to my concern or problem. He was a tremendous source of creativity.
I am really glad I was at George Mason University while he served there.
Associate Professor Emeritus, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Bernard truly embodied the concept of a gentleman and scholar. He was extremely kind to me when I first arrived at Mason, taking the time to explain how to move forward with the Bioengineering bachelor’s degree and understand the integral relationship our School has with Northern Virginia Community College.
It was apparent to me that he put the students first. Always. When past students look back at their experience at Mason and explain to their friends what it was like in the Volgenau School, the image they will have is of Dean White. He made large Mason seem much smaller and more intimate – students always knew that someone at the School cared about them and their success. He is deeply missed by the students, faculty, and administrators.
All the best,
(past) Chair, Bioengineering Department
Dr. White was a very generous and kindhearted person. He was my mentor; he helped me to come out of the little bubble I used to hide in during my sophomore year at Mason. He also believed in me, and inspired me to do more than just studying while I was at GMU. I am very grateful for all the kindness Dr. White showed me, and I offer my sincerest condolences to his loved ones.
As chair of SEOR I occasionally have to deal with students who are challenging, not only because of their academic performance but also because of a variety of behavioral problems, some of them quite unsettling. When all else failed I would turn to Bernard. His formidable size and his calm but stern demeanor meant serious business to these students. I always wondered if they were scared to death of Bernard….. Because somehow he usually managed to whip these students back into shape. I was always grateful to Bernard for his help and skill in solving these problem cases.
Beyond the problem students, Bernard was the face of undergraduate education at Mason, and he interacted, supported and helped promote hundreds of students, many of them among our very best. He influenced the lives of many young students and helped shape their future. For that he will always be remembered with fond gratitude.
Professor and Chair, Systems Engineering & Operations Research
I am so very sorry to about the passing of Dr. White. Dr. White always greeted folks with a smile that could light up a room for a week. He always supported efforts during my undergrad years to strengthen student life within IT&E. I recently heard a quote from Warren Buffett that no one makes it on their own; rather, they “sit in the shade under trees others have planted.” Dean White planted a very large tree at Mason (IT&E) that I and many IT&E alumni sit under today.
A great man, a great educator. He will be sorely missed.
Lloyd Griffiths, professor and dean emeritus of the Volgenau School, first met White when Griffiths joined Mason in 1997, and he worked with him until he retired in 2011.
“Bernard was an incredibly valuable asset to our school,” Griffiths says. “He knew our students and worked closely with them, including finding external funding to support them. His standards for the students were at the highest level and he did not compromise. He had a unique ability to determine whether or not a student was telling him the whole story. Because of this, he earned the respect of our students and he served as their strongest advocate.
“Bernard was a shy person unless you happened to be a student who was less than candid with him,” Griffiths continues. “Then — watch out! He expected honesty and hard work and led by example. He also had a great sense of humor and was quick to laugh and to share interesting stories. He was a true presence in our office that was earned through tireless hours of hard work with our students, our programs, and our staff. “I am privileged and advantaged to have known Bernard. He was a friend as well as a colleague. He will be missed.”