Donald Thomas White

November 7, 1942August 17, 2021

The world lost one of its earth angels on August 17, 2021. Donald Thomas White, athlete, Distinguished Military Student, Coach, loving father, husband, friend, and mentor to a legion of young men and women, was welcomed home by his Lord as he passed, peacefully, with his loving wife and constant companion, Bettie, by his side. His last weeks of earthly life were spent as his life was spent, with strength, honor, courage, and forbearance as he fought his last battle. He was loved by all who knew him.

Born the son of Lucy and Peter White in 1942, Donny brought an inner fire to win and his considerable innate athletic skills to bear in every sport in which he participated. In Donny’s case, his will to win was blended with a true kindness and concern for others that was unusual in such a fierce competitor. This exceptional combination created the prototypical perfect coach.

Donny, or Coach White to the hundreds of men and women he influenced, graduated from Newport News High School in 1961 where he lettered in 7 sports. He then attended the Virginia Military Institute and graduated in 1965, earning a B.S. in Civil Engineering. As a Cadet, he was a Distinguished Military Student, was named to Who’s Who in American Colleges, and was awarded the Pres Brown Athletic Cup for excellence. He co-captained the 1964 VMI football team and was selected All Southern Conference in baseball for 3 consecutive years as short stop while leading the team in batting. He was inducted into the VMI Athletic Hall of Fame in 1975.

After graduation, Donny was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, U. S. Army Field Artillery, serving a tour of duty in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters. Following release from active duty, Donny returned to his beloved VMI to coach for the next 15 years. In football, his defensive backs rose to rank number one nationally and his defense led the Southern Conference in 1977. In 1981, Donny became head baseball coach, winning 85 games in 6 years. His 1987 team played for the Southern Conference Championship.

In 1992, after marrying the love of his life, Bettie, he moved to Richmond where he served as Athletic Director at Patrick Henry High School whose football teams won 57 of 65 games, 5 district titles, 4 regional titles, a runner up trophy, and the State AAA Division 5 Championship in 1994.

Once again returning to VMI in 1998, Donny brought Bettie to Lexington, Va. where he served as Athletic Director until his retirement in 2013. While there, Donny and Bettie spent many happy years living “on Post” and enjoying wonderful relationships with players and their families, Athletic Department coaches and staff, as well as Institute leadership, faculty, and alumni.

Rest well, good man.

Donny is survived by his wife of 34 years, Bettie, his children Kyle White (Megan), Katherine White Watkins (Jase), Bryan White and Shannon Graff (Chris), 10 grandchildren: Hannah Bademian (Sean), Olivia White, Chiara White, Leo White, Lucy White, Sophie Lewis, Sam Lewis, Evan Lewis, Ian Graff, Carter Graff, and great granddaughter Gwen Bademian.

Funeral service will be held Wednesday, August 25th at 2:00pm at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 6000 Grove Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23226. Masks are required.

Memorial donations can be made to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, or the VMI Keydet Club.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Donald Thomas White

have a memory or condolence to add?

Anahata Ray

September 4, 2021

Mr. White was always so patient with everyone and really tried to elevate students that had promise but perhaps didn’t have the resources to reach their potential. He was always looking out for students and we knew that. We knew we could go to him and he was a trusted, honest adult who would help and go above and beyond to help and show he cared. He was the kind of guy you knew would “do something about it”. Heaven welcomed another angel home. I hope his son Bryan and his other children and family find some peace and solace in this part of the legacy and memory he leaves with us all as an example of how to treat and support children. I was one of the kids he listened to and help when no one else would and seeing this post reminds me of that. And I’m grateful.

Kathryn 'Sandy

August 28, 2021

Dear Bettie and family,

My deepest sympathy to you all. Coach White and I carpooled when we were taking classes at Lynchburg College (now University). He was inquisitive, funny, and always upbeat.
He will be missed and often thought of by his many, many friends.
Kathryn Sandy

Shirley Barlow

August 26, 2021

Regardless of how many years may pass after teaching a student there are some whose name you never forget. This is the case with Donald ( Donnie) White as I taught him in the ninth grade in Junior High in Hampton before he transferred to NNHS. He was an outstanding student and athlete even then. As a retired teacher it makes me very proud to read of all his accomplishments and the influence he has had on so many young people through education. I am honored to say, yes I taught this outstanding young man even though it was many years ago.
My deepest sympathy to Donnie’s family and friends. May all the wonderful memories of his life bring you peace and comfort.
Shirley Kemp Barlow

Keaton Hanks

August 22, 2021

I have happy memories of Donny White when he was the athletic director at V.M.I. I always enjoyed seeing his smiling face on the track and in the gym at V.M.I. His letter that he wrote me a year and a half ago really touched my heart. I will miss him very very much. I will always love him. I will always remember him and I will never forget him. He will always hold a special place in my heart. I am excited to see him again in Heaven one day. My hearts really hurts for his family.

Harold Beazley

August 21, 2021

Coach White was my ninth grade basketball coach at Ferguson High in 1965. He instilled a work ethic that I carry to this day. We reminisced at the FHS Class of ‘69 reunion. He was influential in many lives including mine.

Phyllis (Little) Bass

August 21, 2021

The best math teacher. Loved that he used Viet Nam experiences to bring math to life. I always looked forward to his class.

Ken Olshansky

August 21, 2021

Dear Bettie and family,
It is with a heavy heart that I send condolences. I considered Donny a good friend. I first met Donny in 1957 when he transferred to Newport News High School. He immediately became a school favorite because of his amazing athletic abilities in football, basketball and baseball but also his charm and wit. I had a special relationship with Donny when he, Freddie Bowen and I would study many times together for exams. What fun we had! More recently after Donny moved back to Richmond, he, Neta Hastings, another classmate and I would meet regularly for lunch and reminisce and share book recommendations. Donny was an avid reader and we learned so much from him. During our more recent lunches Donny shared with us his cancer struggles. What struck me most was how he and Bettie confronted his illness with determination and grace. Donny was a man with integrity, good sense of humor and great kindness. If ever anyone exemplified a “CLASS ACT” it was Donny.
May the good memories Bettie and the family have be a source of comfort. We’re all better human beings for having known Donny. Our thoughts are with everyone who loved him.

Sparky and Jean Ann Woods

August 20, 2021

Dear Bettie, We were heartbroken to hear of the passing of Donnie. What a great man he was and what an exemplary life he lived. We are better people for having known him. We are both so grateful for the time we spent with him and you in Lexington. We pray that you find comfort in the love of your family and friends and in the wonderful memories of Donnie. Sparky and Jean Ann

Stephen Powers

August 20, 2021

It was my honor to know Donny at VMI. He was an upperclassman and outstanding athlete, who showed great respect for everyone. Several years ago Donny took the time to travel to West Virginia University to honor my VMI basketball coach, Gary McPherson, who served at WVU after his years as our VMI head coach.

God Bless Donny and His Family

Steve Powers
VMI Class of 1968

Karen Witte

August 20, 2021

Donny was a classmate at Newport News High School. He was one of the kindest and sweetest guys I've ever known. It was always a pleasure to see him at our NNHS Class of 60 reunions.

At one of our reunions, I said to Donny "I think you have gotten taller since graduation." He replied, "that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."

My deepest condolences to his family and friends. May his memory be for a blessing.