Kathy Brittain White is a role model for students in rural Arkansas who have the courage to dream big dreams. But the executive vice president of Cardinal Health Inc. of Dublin, Ohio, is doing more than serving as a role model; she's making it easier for those students to achieve their dreams.
White's $2 million gift to the ASU College of Business will establish the Horizon Institute of Technology to expand technology education at the university, as well as in secondary schools in northeast Arkansas. White presented the gift Sept. 13.
Growing up on a farm at Oxford, White didn't have to look far for a role model in her life. She learned from her mother the value of hard work.
"My mother was the hardest working woman I've ever seen," White said. "We grew up on a farm. She fed cattle in the morning, then drove the school bus, then taught school. She went to school in summers to finish her degree. She's the first example of what I would call a super woman."
After graduating from school in Oxford, White didn't immediately leave for college. She entered college late -- at age 26 -- after she was married and expecting a child. But through grit and determination, she earned both bachelor's and master's degrees from ASU before going on to earn a doctorate in management from Memphis State University.
"I credit Arkansas State University for allowing me to finish my education," she said. "Without the low tuition and on-campus housing I wouldn't have been able to go back to school. My vision started on this campus with the support of the many faculty." Her mother, Evelyn Osborne, as well as her brother, Bill Hill, and his wife all earned degrees from ASU.
Hill was the youngest of three children, White the oldest. Hill recalls his sister was already an achiever growing up.
"She's always been a hard worker," he said. "She's always been a leader, and she valued education. Both our parents worked hard and taught us to value education."
Hill teaches high school math at Izard County Consolidated Schools, where his wife teaches in the elementary school. ICC is the district formed when the Oxford and Violet Hill School systems consolidated in the mid 1980s.
Hill apparently also inherited the family work ethic. In addition to teaching, he operates Hill's Auto Sales in Salem with his son.
White's sister, Christy Deatherage, is in business in Mountain Home.
White sees Horizon Institute as a contribution to area schools and students as much as to ASU. "The gift was given to ASU, but the purpose is much broader," she said. "The university will make a tremendous difference in the lives of students and residents by bridging the digital divide through this outreach program."
The program is designed to not only boost technology education at the undergraduate and graduate level, but also help secondary teachers and students by improving technology education in area schools. White already has plans to meet with high school teachers in Mountain Home to explain how they can apply for funds. She also hopes to set up summer programs for both faculty and students.
The program will also benefit business and industry with its focus on providing solutions and increasing productivity via technology.
Dr. Jan Duggar, dean of the College of Business, said, "What makes this gift unique is that Dr. White is not only giving a monetary gift but is also giving a gift of her time and expertise. Dr. White will continue to provide vision by serving on and chairing the Board of Directors of Horizon Institute of Technology."
This is not White's first act of philanthropy. She has funded other programs at ASU's campuses in Jonesboro and Mountain Home, as well as at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. She funded the Virtual Internship Program at SAU in which students work on actual projects for Cardinal Health from a lab on campus and are paid by the corporation. Currently 12 students are involved in the program, working with teams from the company.
"This is real work experience," she said.
The programs benefit Cardinal Health by providing a pool of potential employees to choose from after their graduation. White says she has already hired a number of students from the Arkansas universities where her programs are in place.
White also funded the White Computer Lab at ASU Mountain Home, set up an internship program at ASU Jonesboro and established the Kathy Brittain White Fellowship in Management Information Systems at ASU.
White said she wants to inspire people to achieve more than they think they can. "One person believing that they are capable of more can change everything," she said. "I want to make a difference one life at a time."
Cardinal Health is ranked 23rd on the Fortune 500 list. In addition to serving as executive vice president and chief information officer at Cardinal, White also serves on the board of directors for Mattel Inc. and Certegy Inc. She was included in Forbes magazine's Top 25 American Businesswomen in 2001. But her gift to ASU, the second largest in its history, proves she has not forgotten her roots.
"I've been out of state a number of years, but I come back often," White said. "The values I learned growing up are a key piece of what I try to role model today."
Her own role model is also her biggest fan. She said, "The thing I'm proudest of is when my mom says to me I've never forgotten who I am or where I came from."