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Students studying on the lawn in front of the library

Where Are We Needed? 

The guiding question of Trustee Philip White ’84 and his wife, Ann

Five years after graduation, Phil White ’84 answered a student telefund call with a small gift to UCSB Athletics. So began over 30 years of philanthropy to UC Santa Barbara. Phil and his wife, Ann, support a number of initiatives and activities on campus, including the Education Abroad Program, graduate students in the economics department, the Technology Management Program, the San Diego Regional Scholarship, and the Institute for Energy Efficiency.

“My wife and I decided not to focus on one specialized area,” said Phil, a UC Santa Barbara Foundation trustee who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in business economics and history. “We want to be responsive to the university’s needs as they arise.”

That approach gives the Whites the flexibility to jump in where needed. In 2020, when unreliable technology prevented some students from participating in remote learning, Phil and Ann made a gift to the Division of Social Sciences Laptop Program. Through this program, over 100 students received Chromebooks during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“My previous laptop was getting in the way of taking my communication and Black studies classes,” said Brianna White ’22. “I was choosing classes I wasn’t interested in because they didn’t have a large technology requirement. The new laptop has given me the opportunity to step forth as a first generation, low-income, Black, queer, trans student who doesn’t have the same opportunities as most people at this university, and I am so grateful.”

“It’s a reminder that there are people who worked hard to get into UC Santa Barbara — then financial barriers come up,” said Phil. “How can we help students maximize their time on campus and succeed?”

This is the philosophy behind the White Family Graduate Fellowship, which supports students in the Department of Economics. 

“One of the ways the university could continue to grow in terms of caliber, reputation, output of research, and quality of education is through graduate fellowships,” said Phil. “Having the resources to go to a conference or travel to places to conduct research can take graduate students to the next level.” 

This gift continues to build upon the legacy of the White family’s long-standing relationship with the Department of Economics. Past support from Phil and Ann has had a direct impact on the Career Connection program, providing key counsel and guidance to top undergraduate students as they secure internships and full-time employment opportunities.

Phil calls UC Santa Barbara students capable, energetic, intelligent, and curious. Likewise, the Whites are inquisitive about every part of the campus experience. They hope their support of graduate fellowships will help students in the Division of Social Sciences tackle the big questions. 

“We’re talking about finding ways to make the university more equitable and inclusive, not only in admissions and access but also in the academic space,” said Phil. “One of the big questions is: How can UC Santa Barbara be a catalyst for that kind of change? Another big question is: How do people formulate their opinions? That answer will come from social science endeavors. Dean Hale has made thinking critically about how we receive and interpret information a core part of the Division of Social Sciences.”

“From the first time I met and talked with Phil White in 2018, I sensed immediately his deep understanding of, and lifelong alignment with, the highest ideals of our great university: training our students to be engaged citizens of the world, empowering them to be agents of change for societal equity and the common good,” said Charlie Hale, SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences. “His vision and experience amply affirm our commitments in the division while serving as a catalyst for us to pursue even higher aspirations.”

By providing broad and flexible support, the White family helps UC Santa Barbara provide answers. 

“My wife and I both come from a background of giving back and being part of the solution,” said Phil. “We’re so involved with UC Santa Barbara, and it’s a great community for us. I get the same satisfaction out of being engaged now that I did as a student.”