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Senior Lifestyles

Retired judge, wife honored for contributions to UA

2/5/2009 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Retired Judge Harold White received an honorary doctor of letters degree from The University of Akron (UA) during the December commencement.
Photo: Ken Crisafi
Judge Harold White’s wife, Jeannette, also was honored with the degree, which UA officials presented to her shortly before her death while she was at the Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service in Copley. Shown from left are Luis Proenza, UA president; Harold White; Philip Kaufmann, UA Board of Trustees chairman; Jeannette White; and Jane Bond, a UA board of trustees member.
Photo courtesy of The University of Akron
WEST AKRON — Retired Judge Harold White didn’t attend his own commencements, so a recent honor from The University of Akron (UA) had deep meaning for the UA School of Law graduate.

White, 88, received an honorary doctor of letters degree from the university during the December commencement. His wife, Jeannette, also was honored with the degree, which UA officials presented to her shortly before her death while she was at the Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service in Copley.

White said the honor meant a lot to his wife, who was instrumental in saving Hower House from the wrecking ball.

“Everybody liked her because of her smile and deep blue eyes,” White said of his wife, who was 86 when she died.

UA officials had hoped to present Jeannette White with her honor at a ceremony on campus, but she was too ill, White said. Jeannette had leukemia and was admitted to hospice in October. She received her honor Oct. 29 and died Nov. 15.

UA officials said the couple was honored because of their dedication to the school. He was a member of the National Alumni Board and received the Outstanding Alumni Award form the School of Law in 1983. He also was an adjunct professor in the law school for 21 years. Jeannette, who received a bachelor’s degree in education from UA in 1964, was named an honorary alumna of the law school in 2006. The couple over the years provided gifts to refurbish Buchtel Hall, the School of Law and the College of Nursing.

The two also are responsible for the creation of three scholarships for UA students. They created the Judge Harold and Jeannette White Scholarship Fund in the School of Law. Jeannette also coordinated the creation of the Laura Leafgren Nursing Scholarship in memory of her sister. More recently she created the Edna C. Berry RN Scholarship Fund in the School of Nursing in memory of her aunt.

White is a native of Connecticut who headed to Ohio University (OU) for college. When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Army and served for four years as a combat engineer under Gen. George Patton. He and Jeannette, whom he had met in 1941, married in 1943, and she worked at Wright Patterson Field during the war years.

After the war, White returned to school and completed a degree in accounting in 1947. He finished school in February, and the school didn’t have commencement for midterm graduations, he said.

Of the several job offers he received, the best was from Goodyear, at $240 a month.

“That seemed like a lot of money,” White said.

The couple moved to West Akron. When the next commencement came up at OU, White was invited, but he didn’t have a car to get him back to Athens for the ceremony, he said.

He began law school at UA in 1948 and earned his degree in 1952. The school at that time offered a bachelor of law degree, and there was no formal commencement ceremony, White said.

White’s law career in Akron began in the city prosecutor’s office. He then worked in private practice before returning to prosecutor work for the county. In 1958, he was appointed a referee of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Akron and later appointed to the bench in that court. He officially retired in 1994 but was recalled for service in 1997.

He still stays active in his profession, as a mediator in bankruptcy court, which he does a couple of times a month.

Meanwhile, Jeannette, after earning her education degree, went to work at East High School, where she taught bookkeeping and accounting. White remembers that his wife put a lot of effort into getting parents to come to school for conferences.

“She thought it was important,” he said. “She had an ability to see in students that they had a chance to go far.”

She based her knowledge on her own experience as a parent, White said. The couple have three children, Frances White James, an attorney who lives in Akron; Dr. Susan White Braunstein, a pediatrician in Arizona; and Dr. Harold A. White, a radiologist at Akron General Medical Center.

The judge said he keeps busy with volunteer work that enables him to use his legal knowledge. He volunteers at Hospice of VNS, giving legal advice to patients.

White stresses the honorary degrees he and his late wife received were due to her diligent work as a UA supporter. In his remarks at commencement Dec. 13, he said, “To receive the award was an acknowledgement of her lifelong interest in education and especially the students that she taught. On behalf of myself and my children, we are all deeply indebted to President Luis Proenza for presenting the award, as now she has a doctorate along with her children and husband.”

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