“He was a great man and dedicated teacher with a wonderful, personal, and warm approach, yet he was a fountainhead of knowledge,” says Donna Keesler Schwartz ’62C-’97P-’07P, a 2004 Emory Medalist and lead donor of the Schwartz Center. “I took as many electives with him as I could. He conveyed his love and enthusiasm for music and was a great influence on me.”
Born September 16, 1920, in Atlanta, White graduated from Druid Hills High School and earned an undergraduate degree from Emory in 1940. He went on to receive a master’s of music degree from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying twenty-five combat missions from 1944 to 1945.
White was a violinist and a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He specialized in late eighteenth-century music and was a noted authority on the violin concerto, writing books on Vivaldi, Viotti, and Wagner. He also edited College Music Symposium from 1972 to 1974.
In 1974, White became professor of music and coordinator of graduate studies at Kansas State University. He was president of the College Music Society from 1979 to 1981. In 1992, he retired and joined the faculty of the University of the South in Sewanee, where he taught part-time until 2002.
James Hund, a retired professor at Emory’s Goizueta Business School and former president of Friends of Music, says White saw Emory’s art and music programs grow from a few classes in a makeshift space to a lively, thriving presence showcased in the state-of-the-art Schwartz Center.
“Chappell was the first one on the scene . . . the lone man trying to build a music program,” Hund says. “He did not have very much to work with, but he tried and worked very hard. The contrast between the arts at Emory then and now is huge, but what we have now can, in part, be traced back to his early initiatives. If you live long enough, you may see your dreams unfold, and fortunately, he was able to attend the dedication of the Schwartz Center.”
Schwartz, too, credits White with cultivating an appreciation for the arts that has had an impact far beyond his time at the University.
“At that time [when I was a student] we took music classes in barracks while other fields had marble buildings,” Schwartz says. “Years later, when an arts center was proposed, it seemed like the best idea in the world. Taking courses with him had a lot to do with my feelings for the arts, and I thought about that when the center was proposed. Chappell White is in that arts center.”
White is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughters Patricia, a staff member at Emory Law School, and Victoria; a son, Tyler Goodrich and daughter-in-law Laura; and two grandchildren.—P.P.P.