Flint remembers Mott Foundation philanthropist William S.White

Published: Oct. 9, 2019 at 11:22 PM EDT
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(10/09/19) - From one of the tallest buildings on Saginaw Street to the Mott Culinary Arts Institute and a building on the campus of University of Michigan-Flint that bears his name, William S. White looms large over Flint.

Downtown, he helped to reshape the landscape of the Vehicle City.

"There's not too many people that have been down in Flint or downtown Flint or even the outskirts of Flint that hasn't been touched by his generosity," said The Loft owner Rodney Ott.

Ott's business is across just across the street from the Mott Foundation Building. It's where White served in many capacities for nearly five decades.

His final role was chairman of the C.S. Mott Foundation's board of trustees.

"You're not ever going to be able to replace a figure that Mr. White," Ott said.

White died Wednesday at the age of 82.

"I was very surprised, but I'm also saddened, because that's a huge loss, not just for Flint or the state of Michigan and the country, but the world," said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

She said White was a key figure in helping the city get through the water crisis.

"He was an advocate, he was philanthropist, but he was caring at the core of it all, he cared about people," Weaver said.

White also inspired others to give back.

"This weekend he talked quite a bit about the evolution of philanthropy and how there were rooms of people making decisions that looked very different today. I'm a product of the evolution of philanthropy," said Community Foundation of Greater Flint President and CEO Isaiah Oliver.

He said White's impact and legacy is simply too big to measure.

"We are putting in a small box, a huge, a giant. Not only in the field of philanthropy, but in the Flint community and it will be years before we really understand the impact of his work," Oliver said.