UCAR bids farewell to a former president

Robert “Bob” Mayer White (1923-2015)

Robert “Bob” Mayer White, founding administrator of NOAA and former UCAR President (1980-1983), passed away on October 15 after a rich, full life and a long career of public service. In addition to his work at NOAA and UCAR, White served in lead executive roles at the National Academy of Engineering, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Environmental Science Services Administration, and the United States Weather Bureau (which preceded the National Weather Service). His appointment as Chief of the Weather Bureau in 1963 was one of the last appointments made by President John F. Kennedy.  

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Bob White, former UCAR President, speaking at the Mesa Lab. (©UCAR)

Remembering his predecessor, former UCAR President Rick Anthes said, “Bob White was an amazing leader. He operated effectively in the scientific-political nexus of Washington, and was the epitome of what a NOAA Administrator should be–a strong leader and supporter of new science and technology. Yet he was friendly and approachable–almost like an uncle to me when I was a young scientist and administrator in NCAR.”

White’s career included a lengthy list of board and committee memberships, awards, honors, and organizational and academic affiliations. A couple of his notable awards included the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement from the University of California and the Charles Franklin Brooks Award from the American Meteorological Society. He was elected Fellow of five national and international scientific organizations, served a term as president of AMS, and was vice president of the Marine Technology Society. Additionally, he received eight honorary doctorates during his lifetime.  

“Dr. White set a high bar for federal service by pioneering an approach to meteorology that intrinsically linked it to observing, understanding and interacting intelligently with the natural environment,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, in a statement.  

“He advocated tenaciously for better weather predictions, and to improve the global weather observing system through the still new technology of Earth-observing instruments carried on satellites…. We will miss Bob White’s wisdom and generous counsel. But his legacy will forever be NOAA’s North Star,” Sullivan added.  

A Boston native, White received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and both his master’s and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1942 to 1945. He and his wife, Mavis, raised two children, Richard and Edwina.


Rebecca Swisher, Internal Communications Specialist