IN MEMORIAM: Bruce White of College of Engineering

Quick Summary

  • Professor emeritus had 40-plus-year career at UC Davis, including service as dean and vice provost
  • Touched all of the university’s communities, ‘helping many, many people achieve their dreams and goals’
  • A pioneer in environmental wind engineering, he saved the San Francisco Giants from Candlestick disaster at AT&T Park

Updated 12:45 p.m. April 30: The family announced a celebration of life will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at the Buehler Alumni Center.


Original post April 27: Professor Emeritus and former Dean Bruce R. White, a pioneer in environmental wind engineering who saved the San Francisco Giants from a design disaster at AT&T Park, died April 25 after a brief illness. He was 69.

Bruce White mugshot

He held a number of college leadership positions, and also had a campus leadership role as interim vice provost, Academic Personnel (now called Academic Affairs), 2007-08. In his college, he was acting associate dean of graduate studies, 1990; associate dean of academic personnel and planning, 2001-02; and dean, 2009-10.

He retired in 2011, then returned to serve as executive associate dean until December 2016. During this time he led the Engineering Translational Technology Center, which assists startups based on intellectual property.

“Bruce White has been a part of the UC Davis College of Engineering family for 43 years — during this time, he served us all as colleague, teacher, leader, advisor, researcher, friend, mentor and fearless problem-solver,” said Stephen K. Robinson, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering — White’s department.

“In his humble way, he touched all of the communities of our university, and helped many, many people achieve their dreams and goals.”

“Those of us who worked with Bruce will always be inspired by his high personal standards, his generosity and selfless ways, and his positive outlook even in the most challenging of times. We cherish him and will remember him always.”

'Move it 90 degrees this way'

White was nationally recognized for his wind studies, especially his work for the Giants in the mid-1990s as the team prepared to build Pacific Bell Park (now known as AT&T Park). Based on wind-tunnel research with a 1/50th scale model of the park and its downtown surroundings, he convinced the Giants to pivot Pac Bell 90 degrees — with the grandstand facing the bay — lest the ballpark take the brunt of winds like those that plagued Candlestick Park farther south where the Giants had played since 1960.

Talking about the new ballpark in a UC Davis Magazine article, White said: “The edges of the upper decks could still be a bit windy, but the entire area between first and third base around home plate will be quite nice.”

His wind-tunnel studies also helped inform projects such as NASA’s Mars missions and the management of wind-blown dust pollution from the long-dried-up Owens Lake in Southern California.

In 2002, he co-founded the California Wind Energy Collaborative, which brought together engineers, industry, utilities, government officials and environmentalists to develop California wind energy infrastructure and resources.

Mars, high-rises and clean air

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering and mechanics from the University of Minnesota in 1971 and 1972, then studied for his doctorate at Iowa State University in Ames at a time when environmental wind engineering was in its infancy. For his dissertation (he earned his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1974), he put a wind tunnel to one of its first environmental uses, studying dust storms on Mars, and he went on to do similar work for the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

He joined UC Davis in 1975 and, with the assistance of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, built a wind tunnel on the Davis campus.

In the 1980s he served as a member of a commission for the city of San Francisco that drafted the country’s first wind ordinance; it requires assessment and mitigation of wind impacts created by new high-rise buildings. White subsequently became well known for his wind expertise and had served as a consultant for a number of San Francisco, Sacramento and UC Davis building projects.

Much of his work concerned clean-air assessments — he studied, for example, the placement and height of smokestacks to ensure the safe discharge of toxic gases. His wind tunnel facility drew research grants from NASA, the Livermore lab, the California Air Resources Board and the California State Lands Commission.

White is survived by his wife, Lynn Daum White, sons Aaron and Adam, and stepchildren Alana and Joseph.

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