Clifford E. White, ‘Mr. Flagstaff Theater’

Clifford E. White, a family man known for his mischief, his passion and his loyalty and dedication as a teacher, laid the groundwork for the NAU theater department during almost a quarter century at the university.

Dr. White died Dec. 26, 2008, at the age of 83. A celebration of his life, complete with military honors, was held Jan. 3 in the packed theater named in his honor.

Dr. White brought the performing arts to the NAU stage by creating the university’s first speech and theater curriculum. He also was crucial in developing NAU’s television programming.

“He was very, very passionate about education, teaching the arts and NAU,” said Robert Yowell, professor of theater. “He had a tremendous impact on students and was a very significant originator in the areas of communication, speech, theater and broadcasting.”

Dr. White began his tenure at NAU in 1968 after he moved to Flagstaff with his wife, Doris Harper White, and their children. He served as chair of NAU’s speech and theater department from 1968-1971. He retired in 1992.

He was known for establishing a curriculum for the speech and theater department, creating a master’s degree for speech pathology and providing quality student teaching experiences.

Dr. White was a founding member of Region 8 of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and served on its board for six years.

His early career days were spent in educational radio and TV in Michigan, where he also taught high school after earning a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Wayne State University.

“Cliff assured that what was happening in his department was of the highest quality,” said Eugene Hughes, NAU president emeritus. “He laid the groundwork for the future success of speech and theater.”

Dr. White and his wife also were involved with Flagstaff’s community theater, Theatrikos.

“You don’t think about Cliff without thinking about his wife, Doris,” said Hughes. “They were known as Mr. and Mrs. Flagstaff Theater.”

Dr. White was well-known for his mentorship to students and stayed in touch with many of them. “A man like Cliff epitomized the university model of people serving people,” Hughes said. “Cliff served them to his utmost.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Kevin White (Pam) of Glendale and Kenneth White of Flagstaff; daughter Karen McFall (Robert) of Flagstaff; sister Louise Whiting of Michigan; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America or to the Clifford E. and Doris S. White Scholarship, fund 4267, at the NAU Foundation.

Norvel Owens Mortuary is handling arrangements and condolences may be posted at