Q: Professor White, could we begin by talking about your early family history,
where you were born, your father's and mother' s background?
A: I was born in Chicago right near the University of Chicago. We lived there
because my father was working for the Burlington Railroad and stationed in
Chicago. My mother had decided, when they moved to Chicago in the 1890s,
that we ought to be located near the university. She was from Atchison,
Kansas, and she'd gone with her mother to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
When they arrived in Chicago they stayed in a boarding house out near the
Midway next door to the house in which the new young president of the
University of Chicago, just being started that year, was living. My mother
became enthusiastic about William Rainey Harper and his wife and thought
that this was a very promising institution. When she married and they moved
to Chicago, my father, who'd had to drop out of school and go to work at the
age of 12, was concerned about his children, as yet unborn, having a better
education than he'd received. They decided they would live near the
university. Our family has lived there ever since. Their planning turned out
to be remarkably accurate. Out of their four children, three of us attended the
University of Chicago and took degrees there.
Q: Now you went through the elementary school system and the high school
system in Chicago, I take it?
A: I went to the Ray Elementary School, the University of Chicago High School,
which had been founded by John Dewey, and then took three degrees at the
University of Chicago.
Q: Was there ever any question about your going to the University of Chicago?
Did you ever think about going anywhere else?