J. Daniel White (1945-2018)

Associate Professor Emeritus and Founder of Department

Below is a copy of Dr. J. Daniel White's obituary (found on: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/charlotte/obituary.aspx?n=j-daniel-white&pid=189311459&fhid=29353):

J. Daniel White, Jr., a Guru in the original sense of the word, departed this world unexpectedly after a brief illness on June 12, 2018.

Dan, a revered professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, lived for his students and his family. Through his 47 years of teaching at UNCC, he introduced thousands of students to the wonders of India. His expertise in South Asian religious practices, architecture, history, and languages was unmatched. While respected by South Asian scholars for his extensive knowledge, Dan was best known for his wisdom, his kindness, and his generous nature. He cared deeply about his students' well being.

Outside the classroom, Dan's life was centered on his family and his church. He married the love of his life, Sally Rabun, on March 10, 1979. As all of Dan's friends knew, he was extremely proud of his sons, Jamie and Evan, and the men they have become. As an ordained American Baptist minister, Dan on occasion took the pulpit to give inspiring sermons to the congregation of Myers Park Baptist Church. Dan served as a Life Deacon there and helped compose the church covenant, which declared the church to be "open to all and closed to none." In addition, he wrote memorable hymns for the church's hymnal.

Born June 21, 1945, in Franklin County, North Carolina, young Dan White was very close to his grandparents and often accompanied his grandfather on his route as a rural mail carrier. His grandfather introduced him to people of all walks of life and taught him to respect every individual. When Dan turned six, his grandfather provided him with a subscription to National Geographic magazine, which he read avidly - often in the company of his birddog, Pat - and which sparked a lifelong interest in India.

Dan graduated from Campbell College in Buies Creek, North Carolina. His exceptional academic record there won him acceptance to graduate programs at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and the University of Chicago. He chose the Asian Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania and focused on Sanskrit and Hindu religious practices. He received his Ph.D. in South Asia Religions, Languages and Literature in 1971.

That same year, Dan joined the fledgling Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as its third founding member. Dan generously shared his extensive knowledge of India and its cultures. He was a prolific presenter and writer on Indian history, religions and customs.

He also dedicated himself to discovering and nurturing talented scholars, enrolling many of them in the school's master's program and sending students to prestigious Ph.D. programs across the country. His UNCC colleague Jeff Meyer praised Dan's tireless devotion to students who showed interest in India. "Once he had a student who wanted to do independent study on the Bhagavad Gita but had a full-time job. Dan drove fifteen miles once a week to meet with him during the student's lunch hour, then made it back for his afternoon class."

During vacation breaks, Dan often led students and lifetime learners on very popular excursions to India, sponsored by institutions such as the National Geographic Society, the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institute. Catherine Mowry, who participated in one of those trips, remembers Dan as a "great tour leader. He made you see the lotus bloom every day. He dazzled us with the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, and the wonders of Ajanta, Ellora and other sites, yet took us into lesser known places of great simplicity and beauty. He helped us see the beauty of India in its culture and in the lives of ordinary Indians in big cities and in country villages."

Dan's grandfather's teachings about the importance of respecting the humanity of every individual took deep root and were reflected in Dan's own life. It was after his graduation from Campbell that Dan became an ordained minister.

During his years as a summer pastor in eastern North Carolina in the late 1960s, Dan often encountered racial bias, which he vigorously opposed. His willingness to speak out earned him occasional confrontational visits from the Ku Klux Klan. As he quietly reminded his family, he firmly held his ground in the face of its physical threats. In later years, he strongly supported efforts to secure rights and dignity for members of the LGBTQ community.

Dan's recreational time often involved study, consuming mystery novels, visiting the Smoky Mountains, and performing acts of kindness for others. He became an accomplished cook, and his lovely thank you notes brought a warm feeling to those lucky enough to receive them. He will be deeply missed by his loving family, by generations of his students, by his university colleagues, by the Myers Park Baptist Church congregation, and by his many other friends in this community.

Dan's survivors include his wife, Sally Rabun White; his sons, James Daniel White, Ill, and Evan Rabun White, both of Charlotte; his brother, William White of Fayetteville, NC; and his sister, Betty Kay Raynor of Lillington, NC. He is also survived by his many beloved nieces and a nephew. He was predeceased by his parents, James Daniel White and Betty Nicholson White.

A memorial service will be held at 2PM Saturday, June 23 at Myers Park Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers, please consider as a tribute to Dan contributions to the Myers Park Baptist Church's Youth Department, 1900 Queens Road, Charlotte, NC 28207, or to UNC Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223, Attn: Ali Dubois, writing in the ledger: J. Daniel White Scholarship.

Arrangements are in the care of Robertson Funeral and Cremation.