YSU professor loved YSU until his death

YOUNGSTOWN — John R. White may have retired from Youngstown State University, but he didn’t retire from one of the things he loved most — archaeology.

White, 72, continued working on his digs up until his death Saturday.

“We were supposed to dig Saturday,” said Tom Delvaux, a former White student at YSU who teaches part time at the university and worked with White on various archaeology projects.

“I worked with John 20 years,” Delvaux said, adding that he was to pick White up at his North Lima home Saturday to travel to an on-going dig of a blast-furnace site near Leesburg in Mercer County, Pa. White was overseeing the project.

“We’ve been going there all summer,” Delvaux said.

White was to be at the site Friday but didn’t make the trip that day. He wasn’t feeling well and had a doctor’s appointment, Delvaux recalled.

White had what he called his “regular crew” of people who worked with him on excavations, and his death has hit them hard, Delvaux said.

Ikram Khawaja, YSU provost, said White’s contributions to the university include establishing and developing the archaeology minor and introducing hundreds of students to archaeological digs.

“A wonderful colleague and a strong academic leader, he was a dynamic teacher-scholar who was highly invested in the discipline of anthropology. His passing is a true loss to all of us,” Khawaja said.

White retired as professor and chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in spring 2005 after 34 years of service. He was awarded a YSU Distinguished Professor Award for Public Service for 2004-05.

“He loved Youngstown State,” Delvaux said. He loved the area as well and had chances to move to bigger schools but chose to remain here, Delvaux said.

“He managed to be involved in a number of local things. He was very generous that way,” said Richard Scarsella, president of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society.

White was always willing to put a group of students together to handle an archaeological project, and one of them was an effort to pinpoint the original McGuffey homestead in Coitsville in 2004.

It was a White-led team that excavated the 1830s Mill Creek iron furnace in Mill Creek Park in 2003.

“It’s just important to learn about history. ... the only way to get some facts is by archaeological excavation,” he said at the time.

White also excavated the area’s first iron furnace built in Struthers around 1800. That dig was in 1974.

In 2005, White led the excavation and restoration of the Old Stone Bridge at YSU, a campus landmark, located between Maag Library and Wick Avenue that was buried in the 1960s.

In 2004, he and a team of students assisted the Mahoning County coroner investigating the death of a man whose decomposed body was found buried in the basement of a house on Alameda Avenue. It was a time when forensic science crime television shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” were becoming popular.

“What we’re doing, you’ve seen on ‘CSI,’ except we don’t have the fancy doodads,” he said.


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