CSU Service 1967 – 2002
Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
Louise is a Colorado native. She grew up in Fort Collins and remembers when it was a very small town (12,000 people or fewer). Everyone knew everyone. Louise and her two brothers were the children of a Lutheran minister and an elementary school teacher. She attended Fort Collins High School and graduated in a class of 250.
Colorado State University was a natural choice for Louise, as the state school made an undergraduate degree affordable. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, and her first major was in the College of Home Economics. When she discovered Occupational Therapy (OT), she changed majors. Although she was discouraged by some of the early coursework, her adviser, Neil Kooiman, convinced her to continue in the major. In lieu of the internship between her junior and senior years, Louise participated in a summer-long study tour of Europe as part of a scholarship program sponsored by the National Lutheran Council. She graduated with a degree in OT, but needed ten months of internships to be credentialed.
Still leery of occupational therapy, Louise applied for a Boston College master’s program and was accepted, but did not receive enough scholarship funding to cover the cost of the program. Instead, she completed her internship experiences and fell completely in love with occupational therapy. Reflecting back on her time at CSU, she realized that Neil had been right all along: Louise may not always have enjoyed occupational therapy in the classroom, but she loved the practical application.
Pre-CSU Work History
Louise’s first fulltime position was at Sunnyview Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Center in Schenectady, New York. The client population consisted of people of all ages and physical disabilities from all parts of upstate New York. She learned much more about OT and became an accomplished therapist. After three years of working with a variety of patients, Louise found that she was homesick for Colorado.
She moved back across country and worked at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. She worked primarily with adolescents and adults with a variety of diagnoses which result in physical dysfunction. She particularly enjoyed work with upper extremity amputees as well as persons with spinal cord, hand, and brain damage. In 1965, while in Denver, Louise joined the US Army Reserves in the Army Medical Specialist Corps. She worked with many Vietnam War soldiers during weekend and summer active duty sessions. She remained in the reserves for 14 years and resigned her commission as a lieutenant colonel.
After three years in Denver, Louise found herself drawn back to upstate New York. She took a position at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie. As the hospital’s chief (and only) OT, she established and carried out the first occupational therapy program in the area.
CSU Work History
After a year in Poughkeepsie, Louise set her sights on Colorado again. She saw a position open in the CSU Department of Occupational Therapy and decided to apply to see if she would enjoy teaching. She was hired as an instructor and began teaching courses that prepared students for work with people with physical dysfunction. She found that she loved teaching and working with students.
Since she joined the faculty with only an undergraduate degree, she began coursework toward a master’s degree – in mechanical engineering. When she realized that it would take more than eight years to complete the degree due to the need for undergraduate preparation courses, she decided to complete a master’s degree at the University of Northern Colorado in rehabilitation counseling. She accomplished this in 1973, applied for and was granted tenure that same year.
After completing her master’s degree, she included research and master’s student advising along with her teaching and service load. Research lacked the practical application she preferred and she approached her department head with an offer. In addition to the expected teaching and service activities, Louise wanted to focus on department management and advising in lieu of research. The department head accepted, and, while she was tenured, she could not expect promotion without the research component. However, she wanted to promote student success and happily describes herself as, “the oldest assistant professor in history.” Louise was the Key Adviser in OT, served as a Preview CSU adviser, as a PREPS adviser, and was active in the minority-mentoring program. She was one of three advisers across campus selected for the KEY Community program at its inception. She received several awards as an adviser including ‘honorable mention’ for a national advising award. She was instrumental in the development and management of the undergraduate selection process, and acted as a resource for other departments at the University and across the country. She was always active on Department and College curriculum committees, and participated in many changes including the move from quarters to semesters and the joining of the Colleges of Professional Studies and Home Economics. As a member of the University Curriculum Committee, she helped spearhead the efforts of the College of Applied Human Sciences (now the College of Health and Human Sciences) in the development of courses for the All-University Core Curriculum. Her service load was very heavy—she was a member of many college and university committees including faculty council, scholastic standards (occasional chair), university discipline (chair). She was awarded the Pennock Distinguished Service Award in 2001.
Louise taught many courses in the department but was largely responsible for the development and teaching of theory and practice issues for adults with physical dysfunction. For Louise, the best part about working with students was the energy and enthusiasm she felt from such bright, curious young people. Throughout her tenure at CSU, Louise actively sought opportunities for clinical practice. She often organized small group courses where she brought clients into the CSU clinic and supervised students who treated them. Because of her active treatment practice, she was able to give students many real world experiences.
In the mid-1970s, Louise began focusing on working with patients suffering from brain damage due to strokes, tumors, or injuries. To delve deeper into this area, she began working at Poudre Valley Hospital as a Relief Staff Occupational Therapist. Also toward this end, she attended courses to become certified as a therapist skilled in Neuro Developmental Therapy (NDT) with adults. In addition, she took several advanced NDT courses and helped teach two certification courses.
Family and Interests
Louise met her husband, Andy, in 1971 at the first meeting of the Faculty Singles Club at CSU. Andy was not faculty, but rather a graduate student at the time. He was recruited by the group’s leaders to ensure there were enough men of the right age mingling at the event. They certainly were right for each other and became the first “emeritus couple” of the Faculty Singles Club. Louise states that she married a family since Andy had two daughters, Tanja and Lenora, whom she claims as her own.
Music has always been important to Louise. She has sung in church and school choirs for as long as she can remember. During her time in Schenectady, she became very active with the Schenectady Light Opera Company and Civic Players and regularly sang in their productions, usually as a chorus member. In Fort Collins she sang in the Opera Fort Collins chorus in several productions, was one of the first members of the Laudamus Chorale, and sang in a mixed quartet called REJOICE! For many years. She still sings in her church choir.
Louise has been an avid antique jewelry collector throughout her life. Andy became interested as well, and was able to date antique jewelry by the manufacturing techniques used; he could tell a reproduction from the “real deal.” They had a great time haunting antique shops, pawn shops, estate sales and the like. Sadly, after 29 years together, Andy was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2000, and died that same year.
After she retired in the summer of 2002, Louise began to work one day a week at the Front Range Antique Mall. (Love those 6-day weekends!!) She continues to have a booth there.
Colleagues, alumni, and friends gave to the Louise Wendt White Scholarship, established in her honor by the Department of Occupational Therapy when she retired. In 2008, Louise added her own significant gift to endow it, and renamed it the Andy White Memorial Scholarship. At Louise’s wish, it is awarded each year to students in the occupational therapy program who demonstrate a desire and goal to work with adults with acquired brain injury.
What is Louise doing today?
Since her retirement, Louise has remained active in the community and her church. She has performed in church and community choirs, traveled across the country, and has occasionally worked alongside her occupational therapist friends to keep a pulse on the profession. An avid jewelry collector throughout her life, Louise now sells jewelry at a booth in the Front Range Antique Mall.