Leaving a legacy that was larger than life, Dr. Kenneth E. White, superintendent emeritus of the Mission CISD, peacefully passed away in his sleep Sunday, June 8, at his home in Grapevine.
Services are scheduled for Friday, June 13, at 10 a.m. at Palm Valley Church in Mission. Burial will follow at Valley Memorial Gardens under the direction of Ric Brown Family Funeral Home.
Dr. White served Mission Consolidated Independent School District as its superintendent for 23 years, longer than any other individual. He was granted the emeritus status by the school board at the time of his retirement in June 1988. They also honored him that year by naming a new junior high after him.
Former Superintendent Ralph Cantu, worked with Dr. White for numerous years, as he came up through the ranks in the district.
“He was probably the most unique individual I have ever known, and, besides my parents, was probably the most influential person in my life,” Cantu said.
“Watching him, and being part of his team, I saw what hard work can accomplish and what having a respect for people—all people, regardless of their status—could do. He treated all people the same way with respect and kindness. The staff respected him because he respected everyone—whether it was the maintenance man or a member of the board. He never changed from that belief system.”
Cantu said Dr. White used the same work and lead-by-example ethics in his varied capacities, whether he was preparing for a committee meeting locally or making a presentation at the state level.
“He prepared for everything as if it was the most important endeavor,” Cantu said. “I would watch him plan, organize and prepare. He set the example as to how you’re supposed to carry out your responsibilities—and then he gave you the opportunity to carry out your responsibilities and trusted you to do your job.”
Dr. White’s legacy isn’t evidenced in the number of years he served, but in the district’s growth and achievements reached during his tenure.
The district grew from eight campuses to 12 by the time he retired with student enrollment more than doubling from 4,000 to 10,000. Accordingly, staff mushroomed to meet the demands and went from 200 to 1,130. That growth included the district consolidating with the Alton school district. Dr. White felt that the children of that community could be better served under the larger umbrella of educational opportunities.
Growth wasn’t just about numbers of students and campuses to Dr. White. He stayed focused on the bigger picture: instructional programs, recognition by accrediting agencies, policy development and professional development programs.
Over that time, the district instituted preschool classes, increased vocational offerings through building programs, began a Plan A Special Education Program, instituted a bilingual program at all elementary schools and started a Pre-K4 pilot program. Elementary Learning Resource Centers were established at all schools while Gifted and Talented and Computer Assisted Instruction programs were initiated at all elementary schools.
Born in Bochico, Okla. on Jan. 13, 1927, his family moved to Raymondville when he was six months old. He graduated from Raymondville schools in 1944, and served in the U.S. Army in the European Theater of Operations.
Dr. White went on to graduate from Texas A&I University with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1950 and completed his doctorate in 1973 from Western Colorado University. But, he never stopped learning as he continually pursued additional graduate work up to 1980.
He began his educational career in 1950 as a vocational agriculture teacher at San Benito High School where he was later appointed as the assistant principal. In 1959, he was hired as the Mission High School principal, and he continued there until 1965. That was the year he was selected as Mission’s new superintendent.
Dr. White belonged to numerous professional organizations locally, regionally, at the state level and nationally. He was also appointed to numerous professional committees, commissions and study groups throughout his career.
But, his civic involvement and achievements were as lengthy as the ones in his professional life.
A member of First Baptist Church, he served as the building and budget chairman. He was an officer in the Mission Rotary Club and served on the board and as president of the Mission Chamber of Commerce.
He worked on the boards of numerous organizations as a member and as an officer in some: Mission Industrial Foundation, Mission Hospital, Mission Hospital Foundation, COSTEP, Regional High School of Technology, United Way, Hidalgo Mental Health-Mental Retardation, Hidalgo County Bar Association Grievance Committee and others.
Due to this extensive service, he received numerous awards along the way, including Mission’s Man of the Year in 1962 and Mr. Mission in 1988. He received the Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow in 1981; ATPE Administrator of the Year Award, 1984; Administrator Distinguished Service Award, Area 11, 1984; and Texas Education Agency Leadership Award in 1984.
When retirement came in 1988, “stop” was a foreign concept to him. His service to the district, and his concern for children, did not diminish. He began and maintained a tree nursery for the district where he personally worked to beautify the campuses by planting trees and flowers on the grounds.
His view of serving children spanned across international boundaries when he began regularly working to improve conditions at an orphanage near Victoria, Tamps., Mexico.
Dr. White leaves behind his wife of 64 years, Helen Baird White of Grapevine; daughters, Debra (Ike) Fuller of Austin and Dee (Richard) Mullinax of Colleyville; and four grandchildren, Chamen Fuller, Caley Fuller, Kate Mullinax and Rebecca Mullinax.
Few people have left an indelible mark on their community. Dr. White’s is an entire autobiography worthy of emulation that has touched multiple generations.