Former PRCC President White remembered as a stalwart leader

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Funeral services for former Pearl River Community College (PRCC) president, Dr. Marvin Ross White, affectionately known as “Bud” to everyone who knew him, were held here at First United Methodist Church at 1 p.m. on Monday. Burial was in Clinton Cemetery.

He was 89 years old.

He died on Christmas Eve, Friday, at St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

He was known as a stalwart leader in education in Mississippi and devoted his entire life to Poplarville and the college.

He was also a combat veteran of World War II and also served on active duty during the Korean Conflict. During World War II, he served with the 13th Airborne Division in France.

White was noted for his adroit handling and indefatigable efforts to get the college back up and operating after it was devastated by Hurricane Camille in 1969, only a year after he assumed the presidency of what was then called a junior college. PRCC is Mississippi’s first junior college.

He also, over his tenure, pushed for and developed major efforts in expansion of the college’s branches in Hattiesburg and Hancock County.

Said current PRCC President William Lewis: “Dr. White served Pearl River Community College with great distinction as the institution’s eighth president. He was and will remain a part of the fabric of the college.”

White served as Pearl River’s president from January 1968 to the Spring of 1986, 18 years, the longest tenure of any president to hold that position.

In addition, he had taught and coached at both the Pearl River Agricultural High School (PRAHS) and held prominent positions at PRCC, prior to being named the college’s president. PRAHS was the original school out of which PRCC grew. The high school later moved off the campus to its current location.

He was the only graduate of both PRAHS and PRCC to serve as president. He served the high school as its principal and football coach.

When the high school moved off the campus, White became the registrar at the junior college, then college dean, before being named PRCC president.

Said Lyda Sue Winegarden of Clinton, one of White’s two children, “Pearl River College was his life. . .It was all our lives. He really loved that college.”

During White’s tenure as president, PRCC marked unprecedented growth. Enrollment doubled, and he increased emphasis on academic work and pushed toward a more comprehensive program for vocational-technical and industrial education, said college officials and his colleagues.

Construction and expansion on the Poplarville campus during White’s leadership was extensive, beginning with the completion of the two buildings begun by former President Garvin H. Johnston, who preceded White — the Garvin H. Johnston Library and Seal Hall, an academic building. Following Camille, a new administration building was also begun.

In 1974, the athletic needs of the college were further met with the construction of the Marvin R. White Coliseum. The coliseum was destroyed by Katrina in 2005 but is scheduled to be rebuilt in the next two years.

And each year two deserving PRCC students receive the Marvin R. White Presidential Scholarship.

Said Dr. Lewis, “His leadership during the challenges of Hurricane Camille was, in particular, rather remarkable, as he guided the college to rebuilding of the Poplarville campus from the heavy destruction wrought by the storm. His vision established the Forrest County Center and his financial conservative approach provided the college with long-standing financial stability. He was a marvelous leader. . .”

Marvin Ross White was born in Poplarville in 1921. He attended Poplarville Grammar School, Poplarville High School and PRCC. While attending PRCC, White played football for the Wildcats and was a member of the ROTC.

After he graduated from PRCC in 1942, he enlisted in the Army infantry and served as a paratrooper in World War II in France with the 13th Airborne Division.

After the war on Sept. 2, 1945, he married Marjorie Lee Daniels, also a Poplarville native. When he died on Friday, they had been married 65 years.

After the war, White earned a B.S. degree from Millsaps in mathematics, earned a master’s degree from the University of Mississippi at Oxford and later a doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Dr. White began work as an educator in Ocean Springs, teaching mathematics and coaching both football and basketball. He then returned to Poplarville, and, except for a short period during the Korean War, he remained there throughout his career.

He began by serving as high school principal for six years, and then served as registrar and academic dean of the college. In 1968, White was named the eighth PRCC president.

During his tenure, renovation was made to Moody and Huff halls, a fine arts and nursing complex was added, a new sports arena and automotive complex was added, and in 1970, a vo-tech center in Hattiesburg was constructed.

In 1986, he retired as president of PRCC. His career had stretched over 38 years.

Clubs and organizations he was a member of included: Miss. Junior College Registrar’s Assoc. (4 years), Miss. Jr. College Dean’s Assoc. (6 years), Miss. Jr. College President’s Assoc. (18 years), Poplarville Rotary Club (34 years), Poplarville Lions’ Club (3 years), and the Pearl River Co. Republican Party. He also served as president of each of these organizations at least once.

Dr. White and his wife, Marjorie, moved to Clinton in August 2005. Since his retirement and before moving to Clinton, he and his wife had resided in a beautiful home just north of the PRCC campus on Hwy. 11 North, between the campus and the hospital.

He was a long-time member of First United Methodist Church in Poplarville and later transferred his membership to First United Methodist Church in Clinton where he was a member of the Fellowship Sunday School Class.

In addition to his wife, Dr. White is survived by his daughter, Lyda Sue Winegarden of Clinton and his son, Dr. Calvin White of Ada, Okla.

Other survivors include his grandchildren Lisa Winegarden DeYoung, Laura Winegarden Stambaugh, Layne Winegarden Allen, all of Clinton, and Tyler White  of Fort Worth, Tex., and Sara White Blair of Tulsa, Okla.

Great-grandchildren are Andrew DeYoung, Hayley DeYoung, Madeline DeYoung, Jack DeYoung, Josh Stambaugh, Hannah Stambaugh, Sarah Beth Stambaugh, and Caroline Allen.

The family released the following statement: “(Our father) was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He spent his life guiding young men and women along the educational paths that would ensure a successful future for them. He was loved by many and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”