September 29, 2011
Pro Texana // Medal of Service
Individual whose contributions in furthering the mission of Baylor have made an immeasurable impact in the public or non-profit sector
Mark White, BBA '62, JD '65
- President of Geovox Security
- Governor of Texas (1983-87), Texas Secretary of State (1973-77) and Texas Attorney General (1979-83)
- He and his wife, Linda Gale White, BBA '64, have three children: Mark III, Andrew and Elizabeth
- Played important role in preserving the Big 12 Conference in 2010, was a member of the Texas Bowl host committee, and has served on the Board of Trustees for Hardin-Simmons University
- 2011-12 Baylor Meritorious Achievement Award Winners
Before Mark White left his home in Houston to attend Baylor, his mother told him the names of dozens of people to look up when he arrived.
"Mother was going through a list of her friends from Baylor whom she understood now had children there. Of course, I didn't do a thing she said. I didn't look up a soul. I was too busy having fun and studying and doing all the things a freshman does."
When White pledged Tri-C social club, he made a number of new friends -- and as it just so happens, every one of them had been on his mother's list. A generation later, they had formed new lasting friendships of their own.
"There was Allen Weed, Bob Cole, George Chandler, Dick Wood, Ray Stoker, John Bagwell, Phil Guittard, John Reid and others, and everyone of them were in Tri-C," he says. "Imagine how, 30 years before, all their parents were close friends. I just got off the phone with Dick Wood, I talked to George Chandler yesterday, and I talk to Ray Stoker twice a day. These people are still my best friends. The friends made at Baylor stay close, and that is something to be admired and respected."
While at Baylor, White met and married his wife, Linda Gale Thompson White, BBA '64. He also applied to Baylor Law School, following the path of his uncle Red Wells and cousin Bill Wells. White was excited to have been admitted.
"I was very fortunate to have some pretty good Baylor Law advocates -- Gibson Gale, Leon Jaworski and Adrian Burke -- who signed my application for admission to Baylor Law School."
But he says he didn't envision himself holding office, much less becoming the governor of Texas.
"I was always interested in politics, but I never knew I'd end up running for anything," he says.
White's memories of practice court border on the traumatic. He says Judge Frank Wilson, who was also a full-time court of civil appeals judge in Waco, started practice court every day at 7 a.m.
"It seemed like we started before dawn,' remembers White. "Frank Wilson did not put up with anyone who was unprepared. I've been involved in cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas Supreme Court, [and many others], and never, never, never was I as nervous as I was every single day in practice court. Every day was almost like a near-death experience. The judge stood between you and becoming a lawyer, and the best you could hope for was that he didn't throw you upside down and embarrass you in front of the whole class. Judge Wilson was a great teacher and helped Baylor Law earn its reputation as being the Marine Corps of law schools.
"Every Baylor Law graduate knows where the courthouse is and knows what to do when he gets there. Getting elected attorney general and governor were both very proud days for me, but graduating from Baylor Law School was as good a day as I ever had."
As governor, White focused on issues such as utility rate regulation, economic development and the appointment of minorities to positions in government. But one issue in particular -- education -- will always be the most important issue for Texas, he says.
"The first job of Texas leaders has always been to make certain that your educational programs are as good as we can possibly make them. Education is the one recurring investment that will maintain the quality of life and economic prosperity Texans enjoy. One day, we will probably run out of oil and gas, but if we have focused our attention on maintaining high quality educational institutions, our future is well secured."
While in office, White says he was sometimes criticized about his "overenthusiasm" for Baylor.
"I had a big Baylor seal rug on the floor in the Texas Secretary of State office, and it was always fun to invite my Longhorn, Aggie and Texas Tech friends in for some coffee," remembers White. "And I'm probably the only governor in Texas history to have entertained a bear in the governor's reception room. One day I looked up and Baylor Chamber of Commerce had brought the bear down for the game with Texas. Having the Baylor bear in the governor's reception room is one of my fondest memories."
Recently, White has been vocal in his support of keeping the Big 12 together, but he says conference realignment was also a topic while he was governor.
"I remember vividly one day a good friend of mine coming into my office, and he said, 'I think Texas and Texas A&M are going to pull out of the Southwest Conference. They pretty well decided that they want to go with Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference.' And I said, 'Why don't you just have those presidents of those two schools give me a call and let me know what they want me to do with their appropriation.' That put a stop to it for a while.
"But [conference realignment] is the sort of thing the governor should be involved in because of the impact it has on all the people of Texas. What may be good in the short term for UT and A&M may be bad in the overall scheme of things. I'm paying taxes, and I'm part of the state that has dedicated its resources to help these public schools; I'm a player in that public school's success. This is a team, this is Texas, and we should look at the totality of it; what is going to be good for our state also includes Baylor and many other institutions."
In many ways, White thinks Baylor is in better condition today than it has been during his lifetime.
"The Baylor family is wonderful. Like any family, you have a little fight every now and then, but the things that hold us together are much stronger than the things that divide us. There is a new sense of pride, partly brought about by the success of our athletic programs, which is not the foundation of the university by any means, but it is certainly the front porch of a university and gets people excited about the school. I want people to be excited about our academic programs as well."