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Donny White is a graduate of the institute and was previously an assistant football coach and head baseball coach.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The guy who has been dubbed by some as “Mr. VMI” will be leaving post in mid-November.
Donny White, who has been associated with the Lexington-based military school for 35 years as a cadet-athlete, assistant and head coach, and chief athletics administrator, announced Monday that he will retire as the institute’s athletic director effective Nov. 15.
“I graduated from VMI in 1965 and that’s been 48 years ago. So it’s time. It’s time for me to step aside,” White said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.
White’s 15-year tenure as AD marks the second longest in school history, behind only Blandy Clarkson (1926-46).
“Donny White is a VMI guy through and through,” said basketball coach Duggar Baucom, who has become the winningest hoops coach in school history since White hired him in 2005.
“That’s a real compliment to me because that’s what really I feel that I am — I’m a VMI man,” White said. “I love the school. And the best part of all of that is the cadets. They’re just terrific. I just love working at VMI and working for those cadets.”
White’s work on post is far from over. VMI is being courted by the Southern Conference, the league it left after 79 years to join the Big South in 2003. A vote is expected during the SoCon league meetings May 28-31.
“Naturally, we are pretty proud of the institution where we work and represent, and we feel what we have to offer is pretty special,” White said. “The other thing I would say is that the Southern Conference that we were in for 79 years [1924-2003] — if that materializes again for us — it’s a much different conference from the one we left in 2003.
“Of course, it has always been different. Let’s face, we were in it back when the SEC teams were in it, the ACC teams were in it, we were in it when I was a cadet and Gen. [J.H. Binford] Peay was a cadet,” said White, referring to VMI’s superintendent.
Peay will lead a national search for White’s successor that will be conducted this summer.
“Coach White understands the complex pressures that affect student-athletes competing at this level compounded by the demands and responsibility of being a cadet. VMI is not an easy college,” Peay said in a statement released by the school.
“Under his leadership, every athlete is truly a cadet and every one of them is dedicated to winning the VMI way. We will miss his steady hand and direction.”
White has had a bundle to handle as athletics chief.
He was a guiding force behind significant upgrades to facilities for the football and baseball programs. White also has been main cog in the development of the school’s women’s athletics, which started in 1997 with the cross country team. Under White, the school has added women’s teams in rifle, soccer, swimming, water polo and indoor and outdoor track.
“I think that’s going to be significant over time,” White said. “How I guided that and was very careful working with VMI and Gen. Peay, in particular, as we moved forward to make selections on the right women’s sports for VMI.
“At the same time we only had — the most women we’ve had at VMI is about 160 — so we’ve added seven women’s sports that we think are the right sports.”
White also hired baseball coach Marlin Ikenberry, who has proceeded to win 257 games in 11 seasons.
“I guess I would probably get some credit for hiring good coaches, in particular the basketball hire and the baseball hire,” said White, who was inducted into VMI’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1975.
White, a Hampton-area native, arrived at VMI in 1961 and majored in civil engineering. He was a co-captain on the 1964 football team and was a three-time All-Southern Conference shortstop.
After graduation, White was a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. His military decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
White returned to Lexington in 1971, when he was hired as an assistant football coach who helped lead the team to two Southern Conference titles. He served as late head coach Bob Thalman’s co-defensive coordinator from 1976-81, the final year being the school’s last winning season in football.
White later coached the Keydets’ baseball team, being named Southern Conference co-Coach of the Year in 1982.
Now it’s almost time to relax. White’s wife, Bettie, will retire in a few weeks from her three-day-a-week teaching position at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, a position she’s had for 30 years. The couple has four children and nine grandchildren.
“I don’t know what we’ll do with each other,” said White, breaking into laughter. “I think we’ll be OK.
“What I’m really looking forward to is my golf handicap being a lower number.”
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