Jefferson White, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Maine, died at his home in Westwood, Massachusetts, on March 24, 2022, at the age of 92, after a brief illness.
White retired from the university in 2010 after half a century of philosophy teaching and research.
After earning a BA at Baylor University in Latin, Greek, and English, as well as an MA and Ph.D. A graduate of Yale University, White joined the philosophy department at Clark University in 1961, where he later served as department chair and college dean, until 1972, when he was hired to chair the Department of Philosophy at UMaine, a role he has assumed twice. in his career, promoting collegiality, pluralism and diversity.
Until his retirement, White taught a wide range of courses in the philosophy program, including methods of reasoning, aesthetics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of straight. Excellence in undergraduate teaching was central to White’s career, and many hundreds of students have benefited from his careful and attentive mentorship, and the example of his integrity, careful scholarship, and dedication to living the philosophical life.
He identified himself as an analytical philosopher, but was curious about other approaches and well versed in the history of philosophy and theology. His early research focused on idealism and he served as associate editor of “Idealistic Studies”. In the late 1970s, after a sabbatical at Yale Law School, he turned to the philosophy of law, contributing essays to the “Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory” ( 1996) and “The Law in America: 1607–1861” (1989). He co-authored, with Dennis Patterson, “Introduction to the Philosophy of Law: Readings and Cases” (Oxford University Press, 1999). But his philosophical interests remained broad, as evidenced by the many book reviews he wrote on topics outside the philosophy of law.
White has served the university and the state as a member of the Faculty Senate, a faculty representative on the Board of Trustees, and a member of the Ethics Committee of the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine. Moreover, he was a multi-faceted and multi-talented individual, jazz trumpeter and connoisseur of the fine arts, especially music, painting, dance and literature.
He was predeceased by his wife, Mary White, and is survived by their two sons, Geoffrey and Byron.
At the University of Maine, White will be remembered as an excellent colleague and friend. Always curious and supportive, he regularly made the rounds of the department’s offices, for conversations about the state of his research or his teaching, or about the state of his family. He frequently moderated philosophy faculty colloquia at his home, devoted himself to ongoing philosophical discourse among faculty and students, and was instrumental in promoting the department’s Visiting Scholars Program, Colloquium Series and several annual student awards. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on in the institutional culture of UMaine’s philosophy department and in the hearts of those who knew him.