SF State News {University Communications}

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Joseph White named Alumnus of the Year

May 8, 2008 -- Psychologist and activist Joseph L. White, Ph.D., has been named 2008 Alumnus of the Year. Since studying psychology at the University, White has revolutionized the way people of color are understood in psychology and has improved diversity on college campuses.

White will receive the Alumnus of the Year award at the University’s 107th Commencement exercises held Saturday, May 24 at 1 p.m. (student procession begins at 12:15 p.m.) in Cox Stadium on campus.

At the height of the civil rights movement, White emerged as a powerful voice of change: challenging psychologists to understand better the unique experiences of ethnic minorities. In 1968, he helped found the Association of Black Psychologists and his seminal article in Ebony magazine in 1970 laid the foundations of black psychology, which introduced black perspectives into mainstream psychology.

Black and white photograph of Joseph L. White.

"Joseph White has made a fundamental shift in how ethnic minorities are viewed, understood and treated in American psychology," President Robert A. Corrigan said. "He has worked tirelessly to make college education accessible to students from every walk of life. His dedication and indomitable spirit serve as an inspiration to all of us."

During his time at California State University, Long Beach, White helped found the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), which grew into a statewide program providing supportive pathways for disadvantaged students to study at CSU campuses. Through his personal mentoring, White has inspired countless black, white, Asian and Latino students to excel in academia.

In response to students' demands during the 1968 strike at SF State, White was influential in establishing the University's Black Studies Program, the first of its kind on an American four-year college campus. White, who was professor of psychology and dean of undergraduate studies at the time, shaped a curriculum that continues to speak to the needs of people of color today. "Joseph White is a catalyst for change," said Kenneth P. Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies.

Born in 1932 in Lincoln, Neb., White moved to San Francisco after high school and had aspirations to become a waiter, but friends encouraged him to enroll at SF State, which he did in 1950. In his junior year, White began to consider a career in psychology. "I had never met a black psychologist before. I was the first black psychologist I had ever known," White said.

White graduated in 1954 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, followed by a master's degree in 1958. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and developmental psychology from Michigan State University. White spent much of his career at the University of California, Irvine, where he is professor emeritus of psychology and psychiatry.

"I have had amazing opportunities in my career as a teacher, writer and consultant and it all started at SF State," White said. In addition, White's family has had a 58-year relationship with the University. He met his first wife on campus, two of his children studied at SF State, and his daughter Lisa White is associate dean of graduate studies and a professor of geosciences.

SF State’s Alumnus of the Year award recognizes significant contributions in an alumnus' field of work. Previous winners include award-winning filmmaker Arthur Dong; Kenneth Fong, chairman of Kenson Ventures LLC; Manny Mashouf, founder and chairman of bebe stores inc.; E-LOAN co-founder/CEO Chris Larsen, journalist Ben Fong-Torres; former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown; and physician and NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle.

-- Elaine Bible


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