Whitby leaves legacy of stability

Gordon Whitby served as Vice President of Business and Finance from 1984-1987. He remained on the Board of Trustees until 2005. /photo by Jim Black
Gordon Whitby served as Vice President of Business and Finance from 1984-1987. He remained on the Board of Trustees until 2005. / file photo by Jim Black

Brooke Grasso
Editor in Chief
Christina Garcia
News Editor

As a businessman, caring mentor and beloved husband, Gordon Whitby leaves a legacy at University of La Verne as one of its 125 most influential individuals. Mr. Whitby died of pancreatic cancer Sunday in his home at the age of 88.

“I have never met anybody who has more integrity than him,” said his wife, Professor of Computer Science Seta Whitby. “He’s one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Whitby came to the University as a trustee in 1982, and two years later he became vice president of business and finance. He brought with him a strong business background and helped bring the University out of its financial hardships.

“What he did to make sure the University was solvent was nothing short of a miracle,” President Devorah Lieberman said. “Today we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to what Gordon Whitby did then.”

When the University was not able to make payroll, Mr. Whitby led the way by borrowing money from trustees and personal connections, Chief Financial Officer Avo Kechichian said.

Mr. Whitby brought his experience as an air pollution consultant, professional race technician for British Motors, director of sales for Nissan Motors and a technical adviser for MG Car Company to the University.

“He worked very hard, taking work home on a regular basis to try to turn the school around,” Professor of Humanities Al Clark said.

Even after retiring, Mr. Whitby did not quit his hard work ethic and continued to be an efficient perfectionist, Seta Whitby said.

“After he retired, he wouldn’t stop, so he was very proud that he was able to publish three books,” Seta Whitby said. “He wanted it his way.”

Kechichian first met Mr. Whitby in 1984 when Mr. Whitby offered him a job as payroll manager. They stayed in contact ever since. Kechichian kept the letters Mr. Whitby sent him, one of them reading, “Just a note to say hi,” and one of the books he wrote “Regaining our Sovereignty,” that had a special handwritten note inside.

“In your professional career you think about who are those individuals who have had that impact on you, and Gordon is one of those individuals for me,” Kechichian said.

He said the last time he saw Mr. Whitby was at the Scholarship Gala in March. Kechichian said they would usually talk about how the University is doing financially and Mr. Whitby always showed how happy he was that things have changed since his time as vice president.

“For me, he is the reason I am at University of La Verne,” Kechichian said. “I’ll be forever grateful for him to give me that opportunity in my professional career.”

The University is creating the Seta and Gordon Whitby Endowed Scholarship so that future students can continue to be supported by his financial legacy, Lieberman said.

“His wife carries on his commitment to the University and his legacy will live on for decades to come,” Lieberman said.

Brooke Grasso can be reached at brooke.grasso@laverne.edu.
Christina Garcia can be reached at christina.garcia2@laverne.edu.

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