Say the name Dean White in Northwest Indiana, and many of us think of a successful businessman, a man of extreme personal wealth and a transformer of the Region business landscape.
As a billboard and hotel mogul — one of the world’s most prolific — the billionaire Crown Point businessman is known for these very same qualities in international business circles.
But what none of us should forget are the transformational ways White gave back to the community where he found the seeds of his own success.
His charitable Dean & Barbara White Foundation, founded in 1997, will ensure these great works continue.
White died last week at the age of 93, so he won’t see some of these great gifts come to fruition.
The millions of dollars White poured into Region charities includes a gift that will build a new Southlake YMCA in Crown Point.
But plenty of White’s gifts to Region quality of life and sense of place transformed Northwest Indiana during his lifetime.
Consider Purdue University Northwest’s White Lodging Center for Hospitality and Tourism Management, which helps educate and train future generations in the field in which Dean White flourished.
Or think of the wildly successful Crown Point Sportsplex, a massive complex of youth football, softball, baseball, soccer, martial arts and sports medicine services. Generous grants from the White foundation made possible the complex, which has hosted national youth sports events, not just local ones, and continues to serve as a Region tourism draw.
It’s easy to remember the Radisson and Star Theatre White famously brought to Merrillville or the development and restaurant he orchestrated in Cedar Lake.
White also defined himself as a campaign finance powerhouse for Indiana’s most influential Republican political funds.
However, his true legacy in Northwest Indiana is his unwavering generosity.
White could have taken his colossal success and prosperity anywhere. Instead, he kept it in his native Northwest Indiana and shared it with us by enriching our sense of place.