​On October 22, 2019, Chancellor Timothy P. White announced his decision to retire as the seventh chancellor of the California State University, the nation’s largest and most diverse system of four-year public higher education. We take a look back at Chancellor White’s service to the CSU.

It's hard to imagine anyone with a personal history more intrinsically linked to California's public higher educational system than Chancellor Timothy P. White. Dr. White began what would turn out to be a lifetime in higher education at Diablo Valley College in the Bay Area before moving on to earn his bachelor's degree at the California State University, Fresno.

From there, he earned a master's at California State University, East Bay (formerly Hayward) and a doctorate in exercise physiology at the University of California, Berkeley.

"When I consider the investment California has made in my education—a number that clearly reaches into the hundreds of thousands of dollars—I am always humbled and grateful," White told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"This willingness by my fellow Californians to believe in the profound possibility of potential continues to inspire and motivate me today. As chancellor of the California State University, I am often reminded of the power of that potential when I hear about the remarkable contributions CSU students and alumni are making in the world."

First-Gen Beginnings

White’s American Dream, as he has called it, began to take shape early. Born in Argentina, he immigrated with his parents while still a child, first to Canada and then to California. He was the first in his family to continue his education beyond high school, an experience that has directly connected him to the many thousands of students across the CSU’s campuses who are both first-generation college students and immigrants.

Never content to lead from afar, the former campus president—he helmed the University of California, Riverside, the University of Idaho and Oregon State University—racked up untold miles on blue-and-orange Southwest jets ​traveling from the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach. White made multiple visits to every CSU campus, from Humboldt State in the north to San Diego State in the south and traveled regularly to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to advocate for the system with legislators.

Chancellor White visiting students

Do the Right Thing

White has never tired of talking about, as he puts it, “where it all begins and ends: our students.” It was his unflagging commitment to a student body that grew to more than 480,000 during his tenure that led White in 2015 to launch Graduation Initiative 2025, a university-wide effort to achieve ambitious graduation rates for all students and to close the equity gap between underserved students and their peers.

Graduation Initiative 2025 isn’t just another campaign. “Please understand this is not some ‘check the box’ goal of ours,” he said in his January 2019 "State of the CSU” address. “The focus on closing the achievement gap is recognition of our moral responsibility to do the right thing.”

As of November 2019, the four-year graduation rate for first-time students had grown to 27.5 percent and the six-year rate had grown to 62.1 percent. Similarly, the two-year graduation rate for transfer students increased to 40.4 percent and the four-year graduation rate increased to 77.5 percent.

By recruiting more faculty, hiring more academic advisors, removing administrative barriers and adding more classes, among other tactics, under White’s leadership, more CSU students than ever are reducing the time it takes to earn their degree, allowing them to start their career earlier and save money and time.

Chancellor White with staff at CSU

Committing to Diverse Le​adership

Chancellor White’s years at the CSU also saw a change in the face of leadership on campuses. In July 2018, the CSU achieved recognition for having 12 female campus presidents, or more than 50 percent representation for women. This is in contrast to the average of 30 percent among U.S. colleges and universities.

A clarity of vision, a persistent and heartfelt focus on student success, an emphasis on collaborative leadership: These attributes, paired with a ready sense of humor and tremendous warmth, will likely define Chancellor White’s legacy of leadership at the California State University.

A Legacy of Leadership

Here are just a few of Chancellor White’s most memorable moments leading the CSU:


Timothy P. White, Ph.D., begins his tenure as Chancellor of the California State University.​

2012 Commencement -CSU Northridge​​​

Title IX is regar​​ded to include prevention of sexual assault on campus and support for victims. The CSU hires the first-ever university-wide Title IX coordinator in the U.S.

2014 “Class of 3 Million”  pin - Humboldt State

Launch of Graduation Initiative 2025.​

The Chancellor commissions the first-ever study of homelessness and hunger among university students.

​The CSU surpasses three million living alumni.

2015 Commencement -  Cal State LA

More than 50,000 employees now work across the 23 campuses.

In his January “State of the CSU” address, ​​Chancellor White outlines three objectives to ensure “inclusive excellence” for all CSU students, current and future.

The inaugural CSU Conference to Best Meet the Needs of Housing-Displaced and Food-Insecure Students is held in June at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach.

2016 Commencement - Fresno State

In January, former CSU Trustee Stanley Wang reinstates the Wang Family Excellence Award, which honors outstanding CSU faculty and staff, endowing the program with a $2.5 million gift.

Three years ahead of schedule, the CSU exceeds 2020 targets for its university-wide sustainability policy, adopted by Chancellor White and the Board of Trustees in 2014.​

Chancellor White makes clear the CSU’s strong support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)/Dreamers.

In June 2017, he declares the CSU will join the “We Are Still In” Climate Declaration.

Donor support in 2017-18 reaches an all-time high as CSU campuses and the Chancellor’s Office receive a record-breaking $501 million in new gift commitments.

2018 Mortarboard Tassel -Cal State San Marcos

Twelv​e of the CSU’s 23 campus presidents are women, quadrupling the number of female campus leaders when Chancellor White assumed office and outstripping the national average of 30 percent for female leadership at higher education institutions.

Campuses award more than 100,000 bachelor’s degrees for the first time ever.

The CSU eliminates remedial coursework beginning with the fall term, enabling students who successfully complete coursework to earn college credit.​

2019 Commencement - CSU Channel Islands

In January , Chancellor White receives the Leadership Champion Award from Leadership California.

In August, he is named to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Council on Post-Secondary Education.​

White announces his retirement on October 22. His work on behalf of the CSU has led to an increase of $1.3 billion in annual state general fund appropriation.