January 04, 2024

Benton White: San Jose State University's Founding Ombuds

J Benton White, the former Ombudsman for San José State, passed away on December 6, 2023, at the age of 92. White came to what was then San Jose State College in 1961 as a Methodist campus minister and was quickly involved in the effort to secure housing for students of color. As a progressive activist, he helped recruit students to participate in voter registration drives taking place in the Deep South during the Freedom Summer of 1964. After student protests over continued racial segregation roiled the campus in 1967, the University President appointed White as the first Ombuds in 1967 (and just the third U.S. Ombuds in higher education). In 1968, White was a speaker at the first Ombuds conference in Detroit. He served as San Jose's Ombuds until 1969. The following year, he established the Religious Studies Program and served as its program coordinator until his retirement in 1992. (San Jose Mercury Obituary; Online Archive of California; SJSU Spartan Daily; R Smith JIOA Article.)

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