By Connor Collins
Stephanie White is an example of the many different paths to success that await Phi Beta Kappa members after graduation. Earlier this year in May, Stephanie White (ΦBK, Purdue University, 1999) accepted Vanderbilt University’s offer to become the new head coach of its women’s basketball program. White, who coached the Indiana Fever of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) at the time of the offer, pledged to finish out the 2016 season with the Fever before assuming her new role at Vanderbilt. “The opportunity to lead Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball program is an opportunity that I simply could not pass up,” she said of the move to WNBA.com. Her new and past coaching roles with Vanderbilt and the Indiana Fever demonstrate just a part of White’s impressive basketball resume.
As a teen, White excelled at Seeger Memorial High School in West Central Indiana, averaging almost 37 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 7 steals, and a little over 2 blocked shots per game and being named Indiana Miss Basketball and the national player of the year by Gatorade and USA Today in 1995, according to her profile from Purdue University. Her success made White a treasured figure in the state of Indiana, attracting attention from high-powered division one schools. White chose to attend Purdue University where she not only excelled on the court, but also in the classroom.
By her senior year at Purdue in 1999, White had earned her pilot’s license and maintained top grades in her communications/public relations major, which helped her to gain membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Meanwhile, outside of the classroom, she was averaging just over 20 points per game while she helped her team win the NCAA women’s basketball tournament against Duke University to capture the first national championship for Purdue in school history, according to a The New York Times article written the day after the victory.
Going pro was the next step. Her Purdue University alumni profile details her playing career and the shift to coaching: White joined the Indiana Fever, the same team that she would go on to coach, after being drafted 21st overall by the Charlotte Sting and traded. She played for the Fever over four seasons before retiring in 2004 to pursue a coaching and broadcasting career; she still holds the all-time Fever free throw percentage from her 2003 season when she shot 93% from the foul line. After a few assistant coaching stints around the WNBA and in college White returned to the Indiana Fever as an assistant in 2011. Before the 2014 season she was named the associate head coach and in September of the same year she became just the fifth head coach in Fever history. The head coaching offer from Vanderbilt reinforces White’s successful transition from playing to coaching.
David Williams, the Director of Athletics for Vanderbilt, succinctly summed up White’s accomplishments. “Stephanie White has been a winner in every phase of her career,” he said to WNBA.com. In the same article, White acknowledged the value of hard work: “The combination of Vanderbilt’s culture, where achievement – both on and off the court – is so highly valued, together with the institution’s fan support, and a legacy of winning basketball to build upon, is incredibly exciting to me.” Her past successes and her bright future at Vanderbilt illustrate the kind of well-rounded, engaged citizen and leader that Phi Beta Kappa recognizes and promotes.
Connor Collins is a senior at Case Western Reserve University double majoring in political science and sociology. Case Western Reserve University is home to the Alpha of Ohio Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.