Bruce White, former long-time member of the Ewing Township Board of Education, and one of the longest-serving school board members in the state of New Jersey, has passed away.
White, 79, died peacefully on Jan. 19 after a long battle with heart disease. He retired from the School Board in 2019 due to health issues after serving for more than 30 years.
“Bruce, thank you for your service and commitment to the Ewing Public Schools. You will be missed greatly,” said a statement released by the school district, which also lauded White for “dedicating his time and wisdom to benefit the children, staff and community of Ewing Township.”
After he retired from the Board, White continued to support the children of Ewing, the schools and parent organizations by working with the Ewing Kiwanis to help fund school book fairs throughout the district so “no child was left behind” and was not able to receive or purchase a book.
“Up until three weeks ago, he shared information about a poster contest for our 5th grade students,” said the District. “Always thinking about the children and giving them an opportunity to participate, if they would like to.”
White was a member of the Ewing Kiwanis Club for decades, holding many leadership positions, including chair of Safety Town and president of the Ewing Kiwanis Scholarship Foundation.
Over the years, White belonged to other community organizations including the Fraternal Order of Police and Village on Green association.
For White, service on the School Board was a continuation of a lifetime spent in education.
A lifelong resident of Ewing Township, White attended Parkway Elementary School, Fisher Middle School and graduated from Ewing High School, as did his wife Sheila, who died in 2010. Their daughters Rebecca and Sara were also graduates of EHS.
White earned a degree in history with a minor in sociology, and a master’s from Rider in guidance and counseling.
He was a history teacher for nine years at St. Anthony’s High School (now Trenton Catholic Academy) in Hamilton through 1974.
In a 2016 interview with the Observer, White said he especially liked working with the students who wanted to go on to tech school, which led him to transfer to work in the guidance department in the Mercer County Technical Schools’ Assunpink Center in Hamilton.
He was appointed principal there when he was about 32 years old, and served in the role until his retirement in 2001. During that time, he served for four years as principal of the Arthur R. Sypek Center in Pennington, until going back to Assunpink, where he finished his career.
Throughout his career, White was an active member of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.
White said that after his retirement, he wanted to pursue other interests—one of those was becoming more active in the community—especially the school district.
With two daughters in the Ewing Public Schools, he and Sheila got involved with the PTA. In 1982, the school district was starting its AIM/ACE gifted and talented program, and he became a member of the committee that worked to develop the program in the elementary schools.
After his involvement in the committee, a number of people suggested that he run for the School Board. That was 1984. In the following years, White served on the Board of Education for several years, and then took a few years off in the 1990’s, before returning to the Board later in the decade. He served on the Board until he decided not to run again. His last day as a Board member was Dec. 31, 2019.
In his 2016 interview, White said he believed he could provide lot of value to the community by serving on the Board and was proud of its nonpartisan nature.
“Ewing is a nonpolitical Board. The last time we had a person leave the Board of education and run for town council for another office, I think, was 1994. The people on the Ewing Board are there for the right reason. I don’t think you always see that in a lot of communities. Look at Hamilton, for example. I think that’s half their problem. I give credit to the leadership of both (Ewing) parties to not have that involvement and recognize that it is an independent governmental agency.”
During his time on the Board, White played a role in overseeing the expansion of the district, including involvement in three major referendums.
“A big one was when we redid Parkway School,” White said. “To refurbish the old Parkway School would have cost about $6 million. To build a brand new one was $8 million. It was a no brainer. That building is 24 years old now.”
White was also a big supporter of Ewing Township itself. In the 2016 Observer interview, he talked about some of the strengths of Ewing Township and Ewing Public Schools.
“The diversity of this community is amazing,” he said. “You go to Ewing schools and you’ll find people who are not so well off and you’ll find wealthy folks. You’ll find every religious group. You’ll find every ethnic group.
“When my daughters went to college they had to go to diversity classes. Sara told me that she could have taught them (hersef). I think that it’s a strength of our community, because going through the schools, the kids learn to deal with everybody.”
White said that he believed the Ewing Public Schools does a good job of providing opportunities for all kids .
“It doesn’t matter where the kid is coming from,” he said. “We have kids going to the best colleges in the country. We have kids going into the military and into the trades. We also have worked hard to maintain activities and events for everybody. In some districts you’ve only got sports. Here, if a student wants to get involved, there’s an activity out there for them.”
He said that another strength was that the district “has a lot of people working hard—teachers, administrators, School Board members, kids—to take all these people with all these different backgrounds and merge them together. It’s really a microcosm of America. This is the America of the future.”
White was also a strong advocate of urging parents to become more involved with their children and their education.
“It’s a challenge in a lot of districts,” he said. “You go back to the old analogy—education is three-legged stool. You’ve got to have the kid, you’ve got to have the parent and you’ve got to have the teacher. If they’re all working together, then the kid’s going to perform regardless of what the background is.
“We have to educate some of the parents here about their responsibility. That’s not an easy task. Sometimes you might have parents who did not have a favorable educational experience, so they have little or no use for school. That might be a factor.
“You might have someone who is not familiar with the American education system. If you go to a country like Japan or Germany, you go to class and you’re lectured, and they don’t want to see the parents. You take a test and that’s it. In America, we want the involvement of the parents.”
He added: “What’s the difference between West Windsor-Plainsboro and Trenton High? In West Windsor, you’ve got a heavy, active parental involvement, maybe to the point of intrusive. On the other hand, my wife taught Junior I in the City of Trenton. They’d have PTA nights and only two parents would show up. And the parents weren’t involved with their kids. You’ve gotta have that component. That’s where your success is. Ask any teacher what’s going to make the difference, and they’re going to tell you that it’s having that parent there working with you.”
White also said that as a former principal at a technical school, he believed that there needs to be more emphasis placed on the trades as viable career options.
“Ben Franklin said, ‘He that hath a trade, hath an estate.’ But you know what? Parents don’t want their kids doing that. It’s something we fought continually in tech school,” White said. Let me tell you, I can point to kids who are multi-millionaires. They found a niche and have very, very successful businesses.”
According to the school district’s statement, one of things White enjoyed the most was the early mornings.
“You could catch Bruce out front of his home in the Village on the Green at the crack of dawn tending to his lawn and landscape, or catch him in his front window reading the many newspapers delivered to his home, always keeping current with local and world events.
“Starting his days early, you might run into him at the Home Depot or find him at the Golden Nugget Flea market on Wednesday, Saturdays and Sundays sharing a coffee, a few tidbits and, without a doubt, a joke with various dealers. There was possibly the of making a deal or two, being Bruce was an antique’s proprietor and a collector.
“But his passion was education, equal education for all. He wanted us all to join him in creating a vibrant Ewing Township community, the place where he grew up, raised his family, and continued to support, until his passing.”