State senator Don White, R-41st Dist., will receive the 2012 President’s Medal of Distinction from IUP at the Leader’s Circle of Indiana County annual awards dinner on March 15.
The President’s Medal of Distinction is the highest nondegree award IUP presents. The university established the award in 1985 to honor citizens of the state and region whose professional achievement or public service is of national significance or special significance to the university. President David Werner will present the award.
“Senator White is a longtime friend and champion of the university, Indiana County and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education,” Werner said. “He has provided outstanding leadership for the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, the Residential Revival, and countless other projects crucial to the growth of IUP and the region. He recognizes the importance of the relationship between the university and community and has led the way in maintaining that partnership.
“It will be my pleasure, on behalf of IUP, to thank him for his lifetime of service.”
White was elected to his first term representing the 41st Senatorial District in 2000. He currently serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance and vice chair of the Transportation Committee and is a member of the Community, Economic, and Recreational Development; Environmental Resources and Energy; and State Government Committees.
White was the prime sponsor of a law expanding Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones and creating Keystone Innovations Zones as a way to promote economic development, with an emphasis on areas near colleges and universities. For example, he was the chief advocate of the KOIZ designation that has helped lead to the development of the Corporate Campus business park in Burrell Township.
He was instrumental in securing the release of state funding to assist with the development of Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex at IUP. He played an active role in the collaborative efforts of the university, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Indiana County, Indiana Borough, White Township, and the Indiana County Development Corporation to acquire the site and make the project a reality.
He has also worked to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of Indiana County and the region by promoting community main street improvements; advocating for the runway expansion at Indiana County Jimmy Stewart Airport, scheduled for completion this year; securing funds to maintain and enhance services of community-based hospitals, such as Indiana Regional Medical Center; and generating state support for improvements to local highways, specifically Routes 22 and 422.
White takes great pride in his role as the Senate Republican Caucus representative on the PENNVEST Board of Directors. He has advanced funding for numerous local infrastructure improvements to address watershed contamination concerns and create or expand supply and distribution systems. These efforts have provided safe and adequate water service for residents while enhancing economic development opportunities. The most recent of these successes was the extension of public water to the Breeze Industrial facility in Conemaugh Township.
As chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee, he has worked to promote competition in the medical insurance marketplace and improve access and affordability of health care coverage for consumers. He played an active role in leading the opposition to the proposed merger of Highmark and Independence Blue Cross and is currently working to protect consumers’ rights in the wake of the ongoing impasse between UPMC and Highmark.
White is a strong supporter of efforts to ensure that Pennsylvania’s young people receive the education and training that will enable them to compete in the 21st-century global marketplace. He holds an annual “Senator for a Day” student government seminar to give local secondary school students the opportunity to experience the role of a legislator.
In 2008 the Indiana County Dairy Promotion Committee created a scholarship fund in his honor. The Sen. Don White Scholarship Fund provides assistance to two qualified recipients each year.
During his service as chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, White was the prime sponsor of Act 105 of 2006, which provides tuition credits to spouses and children of Pennsylvania National Guard members who die while on active military duty. He also introduced Act 83 of 2005, which extends the coverage that full-time students called to active military duty can receive under their parents’ medical insurance plans.
One of his first legislative efforts was the introduction of a law requiring incoming college freshmen living on campus to be made aware of the availability of meningitis vaccinations. While not a mandate, the law has greatly reduced cases of meningitis on campuses through greater awareness and ultimately increased use of the meningitis vaccine.
Born in Kittanning, White has lived in Indiana most of his life and is a 1968 graduate of Indiana Area Senior High School. He attended Juniata College through 1972, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in Germany until receiving an honorable discharge in 1975. He and his wife, Anne, have a daughter, Abby White-Youtz, who is in medical residency as a surgeon.
The Leader's Circle Awards Dinner, now in its 13th year, recognizes the recipient of the IUP President's Medal of Distinction and the nominees and recipients of the Indiana County Male and Female Civic Leader Awards and ATHENA Award. The Leader's Circle of Indiana County includes representation from IUP, community civic organizations, past award recipients, and award sponsors.