Dutmer Award recognizes perseverance from White

SAN ANTONIO – A college education was a long time coming for Samuel White, but on Feb. 19, not only did he receive his diploma from Wayland Baptist University, but he was recognized with the Helen Dutmer Award as the outstanding graduate majoring in occupational education.

Dutmer has been devoted to public service, serving on the San Antonio City Council, the Bexar County Commissioners Court, Bexar County Appraisal Board, San Antonio Water Board, Crime Stoppers and Wayland’s advisory committee. The award which bears her name is given to a person who demonstrates a spirit of service, a record of success in business, civic, social, religious and other endeavors, and have a strong working back ground.

Growing up as a black youth in Meridian, Miss., White said he didn’t have many educational opportunities. Mississippi was the last state to integrate its schools and once the schools were integrated, there was no chance for anyone to get a quality education due to the racial tension and unrest.

“In junior high and all the way through high school, all we did was have riots,” White said. “When I came out of high school, I knew I wasn’t going to college. I wasn’t prepared.”

Instead of going to college when he finished high school, White saw his career path heading another direction. The seventh of 11 children, he decided to follow his older brother into the military, serving in the Air Force for 24 years.

“I couldn’t get a job in Mississippi,” White said. “They wanted experience to work at Burger King.”

White marched through is military service, retiring as a senior noncommissioned officer of the Viet Nam era. His awards include: the Air Force Meritorious Service medal, Air Force Accommodation medal and the Air Force Achievement medal. He has been certified as a biomedical equipment technician and reached the level of Master Instructor.

Yet with all of that success, White decided he wanted something more. His father had always said that he needed an education. White’s wife, Michele, also encouraged him to pursue a degree.

“It was always her wish that I, like she, receive a formal college education,” he said.

Though education had been her dream, Michele never saw that dream realized as she died from breast cancer in 1998.

“Without her by my side, I was devastated,” White said. He drew strength, however, from the experience and continued with his education.

“It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be,” he said. “I guess I had just been intimidated by it.”

White’s whole life had changed through retirement and the loss of his wife and he decided there was nothing to be intimidated by.

“I thought, now I can go to school and I can afford to go to school because the military promised me at least three years,” White said.

White enrolled in the BSOE program at Wayland and excelled, making the Dean’s List each semester. While White is glad to have graduated, the culmination of the degree didn’t feel quite like he had expected.

“I recognize there is so much more that I need to learn,” he said. “Be it academics or in life, I am still learning. But I’m sure that I will reap many benefits from a formal education.”