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Dairy, food safety expert James White dies at 101

White

James C. White ’39, Ph.D. ’44, professor emeritus in the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, died Oct. 2 at his home in Ithaca, less than a month shy of his 102nd birthday.

White had a wide-ranging career that included dairy and food safety research, and after retirement, he worked in areas of climate change and acid rain.

White was born Oct. 29, 1916, in Scobey, Montana. While earning his doctorate in bacteriology with minors in biochemistry and dairy science, White worked in the lab of Cornell chemist and 1946 Nobel laureate James B. Sumner.

White served as director of research for the Borden Cheese Co. from 1944 to 1946, before Cornell hired him as an associate professor in the Department of Dairy Industry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), where he conducted research and extension work, and taught classes.

After 27 years at CALS he switched to the hotel school, where he taught food safety and sanitation, and served as an assistant dean. Though he retired in 1983, he continued to work in the areas of climate change and acid rain, and edited and published 16 conference proceedings.

John Clark, Ph.D. ’69, professor and dean emeritus of the hotel school, remembered White as a caring and supportive colleague. Clark became the hotel school dean in 1981.

“He served me very well and helped immensely as I transitioned from professor to dean,” Clark said. “From 1981 to his retirement in 1983, Jim showed wonderful assistant dean capabilities in dealing with the needs of both graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty, staff and alumni. All felt he had their best interests at heart and that his advice and counsel were excellent.”

Over the course of his career, he served as president of the New York State Association for Food Protection; chairman of the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council; founding chair of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network; scientific adviser and director of the Center for Environmental Information in Rochester, New York; founding president of the Mariposa DR Foundation in the Dominican Republic; and commodore of the Ithaca Yacht Club.

In 2011, a gift from Jay ’71, M.Eng. ’72 and Julie Carter ’71 named a conference room for White in the newly renovated Stocking Hall.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.