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Letter to the Editor: Why a CSULB building should be named in Dr. Joe White’s memory

Alex Trimm

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On April 16, the ASI Senate passed a resolution 21-0-1, commemorating the career of Dr. Joseph L. White and to support the Dr. Joseph L. White’s Legacy Memorial Project. The project proposes that CSULB President Jane Close Conoley name a building on campus to recognize Dr. White’s role as the founder of the Educational Opportunities Program and the field of Black psychology.

I introduced this resolution along with Senator-at-Large Thulani Ngazimbi to support honoring Dr. White’s unique contributions and service to higher education during his 56-year academic career.

We ask our fellow Senators to embrace this project because there is nothing more important than the voice of Long Beach students, many who are here because of EOP.

I also proposed this initiative because White impacted me personally.

My first and only encounter with White was two months into my college career at CSULB, in October 2014. To fulfill a University Honors Program requirement, I attended an event commemorating the 60-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which included a panel featuring White.

As I listened to him speak, I was both moved by his insights on our nation’s perpetual search for identity and transfixed by the charisma he exuded. When he spoke, the room was at full attention, with the same kind of reverence given to a preacher or world leader. Even though he was given a brief introduction, I kept asking myself: who is this man?

As a freshman, I was a business major and unsure of the career path I’d take, but by the time I returned to my dorm, I decided I would study psychology.

For many who knew White, this kind of experience was common. here are thousands of people who were directly impacted by his mentorship and influence.

It is these graduates and colleagues who are committed to memorializing White’s lifelong contributions to the field of psychology, establishing EOP and ethnic studies in the U.S., that have come together to be part of the Joe White Legacy Memorial Project.    

White’s career first started at CSULB in 1962 after he obtained a Ph.D. from Michigan State University and became one of the first five African Americans in the nation with a doctorate in clinical psychology.  

In the six years he served on the faculty on campus, White mentored countless students and created the Educational Opportunities Program in 1967.  Now in its 50 years of service, EOP is in every CSU and UC and 114 California community colleges. The program has helped more than 250,000 low-income and disadvantaged students achieve access to public higher education.  

President Conoley has been asked to exercise her authority to name a CSULB building for service recognition of White, delegated to her by the CSU Chancellor (Executive Order 713), under the CSU’s Naming of Facilities and Properties policy (Policy No. 15501.00, Section 403), which allows the naming of a CSU building to honor someone’s service when “It should honor a person who has achieved unique distinction in higher education and other significant areas of public service; or who has served the CSU in an academic capacity and has earned a national or international reputation as a scholar, or has made extraordinary contributions to a CSU campus or the system which warrant special recognition”.

Our resolution was brought to the ASI Board of Directors not only as a show of thanks and appreciation for White’s countless contributions to the field of psychology and the entire landscape of public education in California, but also as a call to action for those he influenced by his deeds to carry on his legacy.

White retired from UCI in ‘94 and passed away on Nov. 21, 2017 at the age of 84.

May Dr. White rest in peace and his legacy be recognized at CSULB.

Alex Trimm is an ASI Senator At-large and Psychology senior.

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