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Joseph L. White
In Memoriam

Joseph L. White

Professor of Social Sciences

UC Irvine

For more than 50 years, Dr. Joseph L. White enjoyed a distinguished career in psychology and mental health as an administrator, clinical supervisor, writer, consultant and practicing psychologist. At the time of his death on November 21, 2017, he was professor emeritus of social sciences at UCI, where he spent most of his career as a teacher, supervising psychologist, mentor and director of ethnic studies and cross-cultural programs. He helped found the Cross-Cultural Center – the first of its kind in the University of California system – and it’s fitting that his benevolent image continues to oversee its mission.

Dr. White was a pioneer: In 1961, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in psychology at Michigan State University and one of only five African Americans in the country to hold a doctorate in psychology. And he was a trailblazer, founding the California Educational Opportunity Program, which has helped well more than 300,000 minority students achieve college degrees and go on to professional careers; establishing one of the first black studies programs, at San Francisco State University; and mentoring more than 100 Ph.D. students in psychology. He was a co-founder of the Association of Black Psychologists.

In 1969, Dr. White was recruited to UCI by founding Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. as a professor in the Program in Comparative Culture and as director of the Black Studies Program. He also held appointments in the School of Social Sciences and the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior. His 1970 article “Toward a Black Psychology,” questioning traditional psychological theories that were inadequate to understanding African American culture, is one of the seminal documents in the field of black psychology. His books include The Psychology of Blacks: An African-American Perspective (1984), The Troubled Adolescent (1989) and Black Man Emerging (1999). At UCI he founded the Cross-Cultural Center, the first of its kind in the University of California system, and the Counseling Center.

Dr. White received many honors for his work in challenging existing psychological understanding of ethnic minorities and in advancing opportunities for African American students. These include the Citation of Achievement in Psychology and Community Service, presented by President Bill Clinton in 1994; the Janet E. Helms Award for mentoring and scholarship in psychology and education, presented by the annual Winter Roundtable on Cultural Psychology and Education at Columbia University in 2003; an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Minnesota in 2007; Alumnus of the Year from San Francisco State University in 2008; and a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association in 2015. He received the UCI Alumni Association’s Extraordinarius Award in 2004. Additionally, UCI honors him with the annual Joseph L. White Lecture during the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium.

A mainstay of our faculty for 25 years and a towering figure in his field, Dr. Joseph L. White is survived by his wife, Lois; three daughters, Lori, Lisa and Lynn; and his former wife, Myrtle.

Thomas Parham
Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs 

Howard Gillman
Chancellor, UC Irvine