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Lori S. White to be inaugurated Friday as DePauw’s 21st president

Dr. Lori White, DePauw president
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The ceremony will be live streamed at depauw.edu/stream

Lori S. White, whose presidency of DePauw University started amid a global pandemic, is scheduled to be inaugurated Friday, Oct. 1, the first woman and the first person of color to lead DePauw in its 184-year history.

The inauguration’s theme is “Rise,” based on the poem by Maya Angelou, which is one of White’s favorites. The ceremony will feature a rendition of Rosephanye Powell’s song “Still I Rise” by the DePauw Chamber Singers.

The university Board of Trustees voted unanimously in March 2020 to appoint White, and she assumed the presidency the following July 1. She previously was vice chancellor for student affairs at Washington University in St. Louis.

Her inauguration was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and precautions will still be taken at the rescheduled event, which is set for 2 p.m. Friday on the south steps of the Emison Building, 204 E. Seminary St., Greencastle. Attendees are required to wear masks.

DePauw faculty and staff; alumni; and representatives of more than 50 higher education institutions from across the country. They include her mentor, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is the Tad and Dianne Taube director of the Hoover Institution and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson senior fellow on public policy at Stanford University, and White's successor at Washington University, Anna Gonzalez.

The ceremony will start with an invocation and a libation ritual, directed by Thomas Parham, president of California State University, Dominguez Hills. The celebratory ritual, as interpreted by many Black Americans, is the offering of drink to ancestral spirits.

The keynote address will be given by Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals; White reported to him when he was provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Washington University. White’s inaugural address will follow.

Other highlights of inaugural week are:


2 p.m.   The naming of Vernon Jordan Residence Hall, 220 E. Olive St.  

3 p.m.   A symposium to highlight DePauw leaders, present and past. Students and faculty and staff members will present on topics such as DePauw firsts; Percy Julian and the rise of inclusive pedagogy in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; moving beyond problematic hierarchies of musical value and toward an inclusive curriculum; celebrating the stories of Black biologists and the path toward diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM; and why gender matters at DePauw. Green Center.

6 p.m.   Women leadership panel, featuring four alumna who have broken barriers, given back through civil service or philanthropy and have led organizations and communities. Green Center.


2 p.m.   Inauguration ceremony. South steps, Emison Building.

4 p.m.    Reception. Great Hall, Green Center.

President White’s biography:

Lori S. White is DePauw’s 21st president; she succeeds D. Mark McCoy, who became DePauw’s president in July 2016.

White was chosen by an 18-member presidential search committee that worked eight months to identify DePauw’s next leader. The committee was chaired by Justin Christian ’95 and comprised of alumni, faculty members, staff, students and administrators. Interest in the DePauw presidency was high, with college presidents, vice presidents and corporate executives seeking consideration.

In addition to the presidency, White holds the rank of professor of education studies at DePauw.  

She came to DePauw from Washington University, where she was vice chancellor for student affairs. She has more than 40 years of experience in both student-focused leadership and academic roles. Before joining Washington in 2015, she was vice president for student affairs and clinical professor of education at Southern Methodist University; associate vice president for student affairs at the University of Southern California; associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at San Diego State University; and assistant vice provost for undergraduate education and director of undergraduate advising at Stanford University.

White earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a doctorate in education administration and policy analysis from Stanford. She also attended Harvard University’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education and is passionate about the power of the liberal arts.

She comes from a family immersed in higher education. Her husband, Anthony Tillman, is DePauw’s dean of student academic success and equity. Her late father, Joseph L. White, was known as the father of black psychology and was the first African American to receive a doctorate in clinical psychology from Michigan State University. Her mother, Myrtle Escort White, and sisters, Lynn White Kell and Lisa White, will travel from California to attend the inauguration ceremony.

More information about the inauguration is available here. A live stream of the inauguration will be available at depauw.edu/live.

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