January 20, 2023

Longtime Purdue benefactor Bruce White dies at 70

Purdue University, along with White Lodging, is mourning the passing of Bruce White on Jan. 19, 2023. White, 70, was founder and chairman of White Lodging, a former member of the Purdue Board of Trustees, a Purdue alumnus and longtime benefactor of the university.

White was universally regarded as a leader in entrepreneurial ventures in the world of hospitality, and the company he developed is respected across the industry for its long-term focus and reputation for quality and results – in development, ownership and management of premium, urban and lifestyle hotels and restaurants.

white-marriott From left, then-Purdue President Mitch Daniels; Liam Brown, group president, U.S. and Canada, Marriott International; and Bruce White watch has Purdue trustees chair Mike Berghoff unveils the naming of the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

“In all its history, Indiana has produced few citizens the equal of Bruce White,” said Mitch Daniels, Purdue University president emeritus and former governor of the state of Indiana. “In a spectacular business career, his imagination and boldness created opportunities and wealth for thousands of others. He invested enormously of his energy and personal resources in trying to build the prosperity and quality of life of his beloved Northwest Indiana. And, of course, as trustee, donor and advocate, he was a central figure in building the Purdue University of today. We cannot replace him; we will remember him with the deepest gratitude always.”

White, who served as a Purdue trustee from 2011-15, was a highly respected leader and advocate of numerous hospitality, business and civic organizations. Perhaps none benefited more than his alma mater.

Among the impacts White and the White Family Foundations have made on Purdue:

  • The Foundation’s visionary establishment of the Dean V. White Real Estate Finance Program with a gift of $20.8 million in 2022 launched an exciting era of undergraduate transformation within the School of Management, making Purdue a top destination for educating future real estate finance professionals. This gift jump-started the university’s vision for a reimagined School of Business, making a campaign initiative possible.
  • A $5 million commitment to the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in 2021 is attracting top talent to the West Lafayette campus. Thanks to the named headship, Purdue was able to recruit Ceridwyn King as HTM head. The White Scholars program will help draw more high-caliber students to pursue the finance concentration and go on to have a successful career in hospitality finance. In recognition of this gift, the school was renamed the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
  • Collective gifts of $30 million for the Union Club Hotel in 2018 have brought to life a hospitable haven for campus visitors while ensuring Purdue’s hospitality and tourism management students participate in hands-on learning experiences.
  • A gift of $5 million in 2009 to establish the White Lodging School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue Northwest has established the school as a premier destination for students looking to begin a flourishing hospitality career.
white-group From left are Purdue President Emeritus Mitch Daniels; Liam Brown, group president, U.S. and Canada, Marriott International; Bruce White; and Purdue trustees chair Mike Berghoff. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

“Purdue Trustees consider it such a privilege to have known and worked alongside Bruce White, who shared with our university the business skills he developed during his wildly successful career,” board chair Michael Berghoff said. “He inspired us with his commitment to considering strategic value in all that we do, a relentless dedication to operational excellence and a very healthy blend of urgency and impatience. He valued his people above everything and invested deeply in creating new opportunities for them to lead and succeed. Bruce made Purdue, our state and our country a better place.”

Purdue President Mung Chiang also offered his gratitude: “Bruce White will always be remembered as one of the greatest Boilermakers and finest citizens of our state. His impact is felt through the many lives he has touched at Purdue and far beyond our campuses. We are ever grateful to have known him and to have benefited from his long-standing dedication and inspiring leadership.”

White Lodging started with a single hotel in 1985 in Merrillville, Indiana, and through Bruce White’s visionary leadership has grown into one of the country’s largest privately held hospitality companies focused exclusively on highly curated urban and lifestyle properties. The company develops, owns and manages a portfolio of brands in destination-driven markets, including Austin, Texas; Chicago; Denver; Nashville, Tennessee; Indianapolis; and Louisville, Kentucky. With a focus on elevated and experiential service, White Lodging’s portfolio consists of more than 50 premium hotels; a private collection of world-renowned luxury ranches; 40 locally relevant, award-winning restaurants; and 10 market-leading rooftop bars.

“Bruce was a visionary, a leader, a hospitality icon like no other,” said White Lodging Chief Executive Officer Jean-Luc Barone. “I have learned more from Bruce about hard work, leadership and family than any other person in my life. And while he maintained a low public profile and was humble in his impact on the industry, there’s no question that Bruce White helped transform the modern hospitality industry by having a long-term vision, challenging existing norms and executing at the highest levels – all from a small town in Northwest Indiana.”

White graduated from Purdue in 1975 with a degree in management, completed the Harvard Graduate School of Business Owner/President Management program and was presented an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration in Hospitality Management by Johnson and Wales University. He was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Purdue University School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Hall of Fame and a member of the Boiler Business Exchange Business Hall of Fame.

In addition, White was recognized with the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the Hunter Hotel Developer Award for Excellence & Inspiration and, along with his family, the Will Koch Indiana Tourism Leadership award.

White’s board involvement included University of Chicago Hospitals, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Chicago Economic Club, Big Shoulders Fund, the Terlato Wine Group and Young President’s Organization.

White is survived by his wife, Beth; three children: Corinne, Conner and Patrick; and grandchild Timothy James. Beth and all three children are involved in the hospitality business in various capacities and sit on White Lodging’s Board of Advisors.

Services are pending.

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