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John F. Harriman ‘45

Helen C. White’s illustrious career spanned much of the 20th century, and her contributions to the University of Wisconsin and the liberal arts earned her 21 honorary degrees and universal recognition as a top academic and educator.

White came to the UW in 1919 as an instructor in English and earned her PhD in 1924. She continued teaching for another decade, first as an assistant professor, then as an associate professor, and finally as the first female full professor in UW’s College of Letters and Science.

In 1955, White became the first female chair of the university’s English department, a position she would hold until 1958, and then again from 1961 until her death in 1967.

White published numerous books that would be later recognized as classics, and her academic contributions to the field of literature and English earned her dozens of appointments and positions as editor of academic journals.

Throughout her illustrious career, Professor White was a favorite of students, known for wearing purple nearly every day.

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