Bruce White, founder and chairman of White Lodging, dies newstrendslive

The man who launched at least 1,000 careers in the hospitality industry has died.

Bruce White, founder and chairman of White Lodging, died after a nearly yearlong battle with cancer, according to a release issued by the company Friday. He was 70.

Dignitaries and administrators who knew him spoke glowingly of White, who they remember as being “unassuming” and “no-nonsense.” Former South Shore Convention and Visitor Authority President and CEO Speros Batistatos called White a “titan” and said a person couldn’t be in the hospitality business without knowing White, who died Thursday.

“I can rattle off at least two dozen people who got their start at the (Star Plaza Theatre, which closed in 2016). We grew up together and then scattered into the wind,” Batistatos said Friday. “All of us who came through there never forgot his influence as we embarked on our own careers.

“You know how Helen of Troy was ‘The face that launched 1,000 ships?’ Bruce was the person who launched 1,000 careers, and this is a huge, personal loss to thousands of people to whom he gave their start.”

Dean and Barbara White Foundation Executive Director Bill Hanna called working with the “understated and humble” White and his family “a blessing and privilege.”

“It’s rare in life to be around someone with as clear of values as Bruce with the talent to match,” Hanna said. “He wanted everything done with excellence in mind and believed that the philanthropic space should be sustainable, effective and flexible; as well, it should be transferable to accommodate changing landscapes.

“I was talking to someone last night who said Bruce’s integrity was ‘pure,’ and that describes him better than anything. What you see is what you get with him, and he was very clear about that.”

White Lodging founder Bruce White died Thursday at the age of 70.
- Original Credit: Photo courtesy of White Lodging

Town of Merrillville Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6, lauded the White family’s love of Merrillville, as evidenced by the Dean and Barbara White Community Center, to which the foundation donated $10 million. He also lamented that White’s dream of redeveloping the 38 acres on which the Star Plaza sat into a mixed-use development with a hotel, events center, office, residential and restaurant space never materialized.

“I thought Farm at Crossroad Commons was a great idea, and we made an offer, but without a countywide food and beverage tax, it didn’t happen,” Pettit said. “Now, 38 acres sit vacant, and everyone’s lost out.”

Bruce White founded White Lodging in 1985 with a single hotel in Northwest Indiana, ultimately growing the business into one of the industry’s largest privately held development, ownership and management companies, according to the company release. White Lodging’s portfolio includes approximately 60 hotels (14,600 rooms), more than 50 restaurants and 10 rooftops bars, and a collection of luxury ranches. Throughout his career, Bruce White developed, owned, and managed more than 225 new hotels over the last 35 years on behalf of White Lodging.

“Bruce was a visionary, a leader, and a hospitality icon like no other,” White Lodging Chief Executive Officer Jean-Luc Barone said in the release. “I have learned more from Bruce about hard work, leadership, and family, than any other person in my life. And while he maintained a low public profile and was humble in his impact on the industry, there’s no question that Bruce White helped transform the modern hospitality industry by having a long-term vision, challenging existing norms, and executing at the highest levels — all from a small town in Northwest Indiana.”

Bruce White and the White family stepped up their philanthropic support in the last five years, investing or pledging more than $100 million in legacy investments from family foundations, according to the company release. Among those projects are the expansion of inner-city youth education and several state-of-the-art community centers and YMCA facilities in Northwest Indiana named for Bruce’s parents, and tens of millions of dollars in support of business and hospitality education at his alma mater — Purdue University. Most recently, in recognition of Bruce White’s ongoing support, Purdue University renamed its hospitality school the White Lodging — J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Bruce White speakis during the naming of the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management In October 2021. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

User Upload Caption: Bruce White speaks during the naming of the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in October 2021.
- Original Credit: Courtesy of Purdue University

User Upload Caption: Bruce White speaks during the naming of the White Lodging-J.W. Marriott, Jr. School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in October 2021.
– Original Credit: Courtesy of Purdue University (John Underwood / HANDOUT)

“Bruce White will always be remembered as one of the greatest Boilermakers and finest citizens of our state. His impact is felt through the many lives he has touched at Purdue and far beyond our campuses,” Purdue University President Mung Chiang said in a statement. “We are ever grateful to have known him and to have benefited from his long-standing dedication and inspiring leadership.”

White is survived by his wife of 35 years, Beth; three children: Corinne, Conner and Patrick; and grandchild Timothy James. Beth and all three children are involved in the hospitality business in various capacities and sit on White Lodging’s Board of Advisors.

Services are pending, Hanna said.

Michelle Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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