John C. White

For outstanding achievements and service to both the University of Illinois and the larger community through entrepreneurial innovation and philanthropic leadership.

Chairman of the Board, Universal Technical Institute

  • BS, 1971, General Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

John White’s accomplishments epitomize the model of a general engineer who uses his engineering education to achieve technical business and service goals.  After a successful six years as a Sales Representative in IBM’s General Systems Division, White acquired the Phoenix-based Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) in 1977.  At that time, MMI had two staff instructors and 11 students.

An industry visionary, White turned the fledgling business into a national enterprise. In the early 1980s, he started a training partnership with Harley Davidson that set the stage for a successful strategy—working closely with leading manufacturers in creating and delivering education offerings that would best prepare technicians for the workforce. Exclusive relationships with American Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki soon followed.

The approach also set a foundation for success in the years to come.  By 1987, with an expansion to Orlando, Fla., White had grown the renamed Clinton Harley Corporation into the largest training enterprise of its kind in the world.  In 1997, Clinton Harley and Universal Technical Institute merged, and White became the new company’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Strategic Planning Officer.

Under White’s leadership, UTI has become the nation’s leading provider of training for aspiring automotive, motorcycle, diesel, marine, and collision repair technicians, and a key source of service personnel for its more than 30 manufacturer partners representing the world’s leading brands.  UTI went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2003, and since that time, student enrollment has increased more than 80 percent, with more than a 120 percent increase in revenues. 

In 2004, UTI expanded its industry partner strategy and entered into a unique relationship with NASCAR, creating the country’s first technical training school to combine both core automotive technology and NASCAR-specific motor sports programs. UTI’s NASCAR Technical Institute is now the exclusive educational partner of NASCAR, adding to a stellar array of manufacturer relationships including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Jaguar, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo, Cummins, Freightliner, and others.

In 2010, UTI celebrated 45 years of technician training and now boasts more than 160,000 graduates.  The company has 11 campuses nationwide, more than 2,200 employees, and average enrollment of more than 16,000 students.

White continues to give back to the University of Illinois in both time and resources, including past service on the Department of Industrial and Enterprise System Engineering (formerly General Engineering) alumni board, and as a featured speaker for ISE’s Engineer in Residence Program.  He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the ISE department in 2003.