A business icon who had a tremendous impact on the state has passed away. Dean White, a former business leader in the billboard and hotel industries, spent much of his life out of the public spotlight. In addition to his significant contributions to the business community in northwest Indiana and the state, White was a major benefactor for educational other charitable causes. He was the driving force behind the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis, the city where he started his hotel development career. He was 93.
White and his wife Barbara set up a foundation that spread millions of dollars to nonprofits throughout Indiana. One of the most recent big-ticket donations was $16 million toward the Southlake Family YMCA in Crown Point, near the family home. In 2012, the foundation gave $2 million to the Indianapolis Zoo for the $30 million International Orangutan Center. A $5 million gift to Purdue University Northwest in 2009 helped beef up what is respectfully named White Lodging Center for Hospitality and Tourism Management.
White started working for his father’s billboard company at a young age, eventually taking it over and building it into a global powerhouse. The Whiteco Industries advertising business was sold in 1998 to Chancellor Media Corp. for $960 million. In 2006, White’s companies divested themselves from 100 hotel properties for $1.7 billion.
One of the most prominent projects associated with White is the Star Plaza Theatre and Radisson at the Star Plaza, a hotel and entertainment venue that has been a staple for top concerts and shows, as well as local community-level events since the late 1960s. Last month, White Lodging Services, which was founded by White’s son, Bruce, announced a nationally-branded hotel will be built in its place. White Lodging was also the developer of the signature JW Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis and several other major lodging destinations in Indiana.
Many leaders throughout the state are reacting to Dean White’s death, including:
Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.): "Dean was a giant whose commitment to Indiana, particularly Northwest Indiana, impacted the lives of countless Hoosiers. His legacy will live on for generations. Marsha and I offer our deepest condolences to his family."
This story will be updated.
Coats says White will be “deeply missed.”
Visclosky says White’s legacy goes well beyond his business success.