Born in Brooklyn, New York, White studied agriculture at Cornell University where he graduated with a B.S. in 1912. He began his M.L.A. studies at Harvard University the following fall, completing his coursework in 1915. A series of jobs followed at the offices of Fletcher Steele, John Nolan, and Harris Reynolds, culminating with a position at the Olmsted Brothers office in Brookline, Massachusetts from 1916 to 1920.
In 1922, White became an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois, the beginning of a 37-year teaching career. White’s work would inspire hundreds of students including Hideo Sasaki, Peter Walker, Chuck Harris, Stu Dawson, Rich Haag, Phil Lewis, and Larry Zuelke, among others. A talented musician and artist, he was known for his unconventional, creative teaching style. Most remembered are his illustrative chalkboard drawings, “Ten Slides on the Teaching of Landscape Architecture,” which he used to impart design principles and process. He was active in the National Conference on Instruction in Landscape Architecture (NCILA, now CELA), including the development and administration of the Landscape Exchange Problems, and was the Director the Lake Forest Graduate Institute of Architecture and Landscape Architecture from 1926 to 1931. He retired from teaching in 1959, but continued to participate actively as a writer and lecturer in the discourse of the field.