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Nursing classroom to be named for Louise White

Esther Louise White, a major benefactor of Southwestern Michigan College’s Nursing and Health Education Building expansion, devoted her life to pursuing twin passions for meeting people through nursing and traveling. Mrs. White, mother of SMC Board of Trustees Secretary William M. White, died Aug. 14, 2016. She was 94. “That was my mom,” White said. “She loved people and made friends everywhere. She was quite an adventurer.”

Since December 2001, when she established the Louise White Endowment Scholarship for Nurses, her foundation donations exceed $101,000, including a recent $50,000 gift to fund a classroom named for her in the new facility.

She was born Dec. 5, 1921, in Cass County’s LaGrange Township, home to SMC’s Dowagiac campus.

Her parents were Frank and Marie (Van Riper) Benedict. Her final resting place, Van Riper Cemetery between Dowagiac and Cassopolis, is named for her ancestors.

She was a member of Chicago’s Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing Class of 1943, then practiced at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Wash.

While serving in the Army, she attained the rank of second lieutenant and in Colorado met her husband, Robert Mason White. They married in 1949 and had two children, Bill and Elaine.

Louise’s husband preceded her in death in 1956 while serving in the U.S. Army in France. He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Bill White remembers his father leaving on duty tours to Korea and Germany. After he died, the White family returned to southwest Michigan to live with his grandparents.

Louise continued her nursing career in hospitals and industry until retiring. Bill remembers her working as an industrial nurse for Rudy’s in Dowagiac, Kawneer in Niles and for Niles’ Pawating, now Lakeland Hospital.

Upon retiring, Louise really began seeing the world with her daughter, a travel agent.

She visited much of the United States, as well as Scandinavia, Europe and China, where she forged a lifelong friendship with translator Yan Meng.

Louise loved gardening, reading non-fiction, researching genealogy and studying the history of nursing.

She gave of her time to Cass District Library, Cass County Historical Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, SMC Museum, Cass Audubon Society, the former Efton James American Legion Post 206 in Cassopolis and Cass County Hospice.

She belonged to United Presbyterian Church of Cassopolis.

Nursing project funding is derived from a $4 million State of Michigan appropriation, $3 million from the college’s building and site fund and $2.6 million from a major gift initiative open to community members and businesses.

To donate to the foundation, contact Executive Director Eileen Toney at SMC Foundation, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047; (269) 782-1301; or etoney@swmich.edu.