You are here

Duke’s White named Champion of Diversity and Inclusion

Longtime athletics director a leader in promoting equitable hiring among administrators

Duke University Athletics Director Kevin White, a pivotal figure in NCAA efforts to further diversify the talent pool in athletics administration, has produced results during a 34-year career spent at six schools that could serve as a blueprint for college sports hiring.

Kevin White, Duke University

White’s colleagues want to spotlight his impressive work. The NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee is recognizing White as this quarter’s Champion of Diversity and Inclusion – and White’s former understudies, too, are using the moment to extol his sound approach to enhancing the administrative talent pipeline.

Chris Reynolds, the Bradley University athletics director, called the 65-year-old White “a pioneer and an extraordinary leader … in the area of diversity and inclusion.” Bernard Muir, the Stanford University athletics director, described White as a “great mentor, confidant and, most importantly, a great friend.” Sandy Barbour, the Pennsylvania State University athletics director, said the Duke leader is “an incredible visionary, passionate advocate for students and unparalleled mentor.” 

Chris Reynolds, Bradley University

Women and men of various races, colors and backgrounds have thrived as young associates working under White at all of his career stops. All told, 24 of his former aides have flourished and advanced to athletics director positions in college departments across the nation.

White’s equitable approach to hiring administrators and coaches is worthy of attention. At all five of the Division I athletics departments he has led, he hired the first ethnic minority head coach. At Duke, he broadened a senior and executive staff that included one female and no ethnic minorities in 2007 to a group that currently features eight women and four ethnic minorities.

White has a steadfast rule for new employee searches: All final talent pools must include a member of the underrepresented population within that specific area.

“Kevin is the very first person who comes to mind when considering those who are advocates of underrepresented populations,” said China Jude, chair of the subcommittee that selects Champions of Diversity and Inclusion and the assistant vice president/athletics director at Queens College (New York). “His long history of positioning ethnic minorities and women for the athletics director chair speaks volumes of his commitment long before others were willing to address it. The committee was very impressed with what Kevin has been doing and looks forward to future ADs through his pipeline.”

Fostering career opportunities for coaches and administrators of diverse backgrounds is a top priority for the NCAA. Numbers compiled in 2014-15 showed that 30.6 percent of athletics directors (348 of 1,139) across all three divisions were women of all backgrounds or ethnic minority men.

White, for his part, has generated a steady stream of ideas to augment that pipeline, including the creation of the Open Door Initiative at Duke. That plan provides ethnic minorities an opportunity to intern in White’s department each summer and show themselves to be strong candidates for future job vacancies.

“This is such an important topic in our industry,” White said. “Diversity and inclusion matters are often debated, sometimes very publicly. Fairness and equity – for people of all colors, religious backgrounds and sexual preferences to name a few – are non-negotiable principles at Duke University. To be sure, we are proud of our progress but understand there is more work to do relating to these critical issues.”

Bernard Muir, Stanford University

White’s relationship with his proteges doesn’t end when they leave the nest. Stanford’s Muir, who was a deputy athletics director under White when the latter was at the University of Notre Dame from 2000 to 2008, said White continues to be a trusted source of information on complex issues. “Kevin has always displayed a keen interest in the well-being of young people and remains committed to fostering their professional growth and career aspirations,” Muir said.

Bradley’s Reynolds, who was an associate athletics director under White at Notre Dame, noted that college athletics are “better because of (White’s) foresight, vision and desire to help make the administrative ranks reflective of the highest values and ideals that make higher education in this country the absolute best in the world.”

Penn State’s Barbour, who was a deputy athletics director with White at Notre Dame, said he has spent his lifetime advocating for women and minorities in intercollegiate athletics.

“I’m so extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to be mentored and coached by Kevin,” she said. “Everyone needs a champion to help them see their potential and possibilities, and Kevin has certainly been my champion. I’m honored to have him as a lifelong colleague, mentor and, most impactful, a dear friend.”

Sandy Barbour, Pennsylvania State University

White is a board member for Advocates for Athletic Equity, a group that promotes ethnic minority coaches for leadership positions at all levels. White also was part of the Duke athletics department’s “You Can Play” video supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning student-athletes. He has supported the school’s student-athletes in work with the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and that group’s Sports and Social Justice Leadership Initiative.

White earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s College (Indiana), his master’s from Central Michigan University and his doctorate from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His first athletics director position was at Loras College, followed by athletics director jobs at the University of Maine, Orono; Tulane University; and Arizona State University before he moved to Notre Dame.