The man behind the name: a chat with Professor White

By Jillian Jennett
Staff Writer

Professor Bob White—we’ve all seen his cheerful smile and snowy beard at least once since arriving at Simmons. Who is the man, the myth, the legend who is our own personal Dumbledore?

bob white picIn his own three words: “Artist. Cheerful. Marshmallow.”

So how did this professor find his way into not only our hearts, but Simmons College itself?

It began in 1971, when Bob was working at Emerson College as a part-time professor who wanted a change. His graduate school alma mater, Boston University, had placed an advertisement at their placement site for an opening at Simmons College. Dorothy Williams, the chair of the communications department, hired our now beloved professor to teach par- time Communications Media, a class he still says, after all  these year, is his favorite to teach.

Bob White’s teaching is not just teaching; it is truly a performance. Every class begins and ends with music, every moment of his lecture is planned out, and every video he shows finishes at the exact moment before his students begin to pack their bags to head home. What does he love most about teaching his Communications Media class? How big and how diverse the class is.

“The class started small, but grew and grew and grew. Finally, they graciously gave me the ability to teach a bigger class!” White said, chuckling. “I love teaching all majors. I love giving them a break from maybe their more rigorous science classes. I just love still and moving pictures, the foundation of communication. Well, and the Department of Communications too!”

Students have spoken often and fondly about his enthusiasm and unique teaching style. Just how did it come to be the way it is today? He attributes much of this performance based teaching to not only his work in college radio, but to his acting career.

Yes, that’s right; a little known fact about our beloved Bob White is that he’s a star of the silver screen. While on sabbatical to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Bob met plenty of film students and was happy to get involved in some projects. His debut came in the 1985 horror movie “Screamplay”. Professor White played a burnt-out rock star named Lot who donned monk-like clothes and, as Bob hinted, came to an “untimely end.” No spoilers.

Of course, a Communications Media professor loves media, most notably, anything to do with “Harry Potter.” He was first dubbed Simmons’ “Dumbledore” at an awards ceremony in 2004 and has run with it ever since. With his Hogwarts’ robes and tie (he’s a Gryffindor) in his office alongside a miniature Hogwarts, life-sized Hermione cut out, and the U.S. and U.K. versions of the books, he has happily incorporated the wizarding world into his teaching.pic of bob white with students

“I love what Jo Rowling has done,” said White. “She’s a woman artist who struggled to care for her child and created an entire world, which then became reality! I love talking about the books, different book designs and language— anything to do with Harry Potter in my classes. I feel like it really draws the students in.”

Dumbledore has been his favorite comparison so far, citing his love for the Simmons Voice’s April Fool’s Day cover where he is revealed to be the headmaster himself. He has been compared to historical figures, namely Rasputin in the 80s, and now enjoys being marveled at by small children who think he’s Santa Claus.

What is his best advice? Despite his worries that it sounded too cliché, he offered all of us these wise words:

“Do what you love. That’s the secret of life, honestly. Everything flows from that. It makes it easy for you to give cheerfulness and joy to others around you. You might feel guilty when anyone pays you to do what you love, but you get over it, and every day becomes the best day. Do what you love. Love what you do.”