Roy Whiteker, 96, a stalwart as dean and professor

Roy and Jean Whiteker, courtesy of Scott Whiteker

Roy and Jean Whiteker, courtesy of Scott Whiteker

Roy Whiteker was as comfortable in conference rooms as he was in chemistry labs, which colleagues say made him an ideal dean and professor—both roles he filled with caring expertise during his almost 40 years at Pacific. Whiteker died Feb.14 at the age of 96.

Whiteker served as dean of College of the Pacific from 1976, when he joined the university, to 1989. He then moved into the classroom and taught until his retirement in 2014.

Prior to joining Pacific, he worked for the Fulbright Program as director of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars in Washington, D.C.

“I remember that Roy’s background and influence with Fulbright was very helpful in Pacific receiving Fulbright scholarships,” said Bob Benedetti, who was Whiteker’s successor as COP dean. “Roy was extremely helpful to faculty in the school and throughout the university. He was supportive when I moved into the COP dean’s office.”

Gene Pearson, professor emeritus of geology, worked for several years in the late 1970s as an assistant dean under Whiteker, whom he described as “candid and straight-forward.” He added Whiteker was a very good mentor.

“He took a chance on a junior faculty member when I didn’t truly have the needed experience,” Pearson said. “There always was a layer of kindness in the way he did things.”

Pearson noted Whiteker was a poet, adding, “He took time to write a poem about my time as assistant dean when I was transitioning out of that role.”

Bill Topp, professor emeritus of mathematics, recalls Whiteker as “a great person” who would take time to collaborate with faculty on issues. He also was very instrumental in chronicling the history of Pacific’s Emeriti Society.

“Roy was very fastidious about grammar,” Topp said with a laugh. “You could send him a note and it often would come back with approval for the question at hand, but also filled with grammatical corrections.”

Whiteker was an avid supporter of Pacific athletics as well as music, drama and other arts programs. 

Roy Whiteker with grandchildren

Roy Whiteker with grandchildren Samantha and Joshua, courtesy of Scott Whiteker

“Dad loved all of the programs and was always very supportive of Pacific students,” his son Scott Whiteker said. “When I was growing up, he would take me along to events. I would also go to work with him on weekends. I always thought I was raised by a mom, a dad and a university.”

Whiteker received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCLA and his master’s and PhD in chemistry from Caltech.

Whiteker is survived by wife Jean, of 63 years; son Scott and grandchildren Samantha, 16; and Joshua, 13.

Services are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22 in the chapel at the O’Connor Woods retirement home, 3400 Wagner Heights Road, Stockton.

Scholarly Commons interview with Roy Whiteker conducted by Doris Meyer