The email note was from Oklahoma’s Burr Millsap and it said, “Just thought you’d like to know.” The obituary enclosed, and provided below, was for Earl Whitman, a personal friend and one of the most influential NAEB board members and presidents during my 25-year tenure as the Association’s CEO. I first met Earl at a Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas regional meeting in 1975. He was still dressed in his USN dress-blue commander’s uniform when he was introduced as the next chief procurement officer at the University of Oklahoma, succeeding D. R. Kimrey, who had been the Association’s president in 1955. Burr was Earl’s successor.
Speaking with Earl at the meeting, I made a note to recruit him for our Purchasing Institute faculty as soon as he had settled in. He was that sharp and articulate. Every once in a while, someone comes along who can explain something you thought you knew well in a manner that brings fresh understanding. He took the assignment and instantly became one of our ablest faculty members—with the experience, knowledge, and ability to clearly explain problems and solutions in an insightful way that made many of us rethink what we thought we knew well. He was always open to new ideas and a pleasure to work with.
With Wes Donaldson, Earl led the transformation of TOA into a regional professional development power house. In 1985 he was elected president of the then-NAEB, having served the previous three years as vice-president. Paired with Virginia’s Dolly Prenzel and Texas A&M’s Wes Donaldson, he helped restructure NAEB. Later, he received the Bert C. Ahrens Award, the Association’s highest form of recognition, for his service to NAEB and the branch of the purchasing profession serving higher education.
One of the highlights of my career was a purchasing workshop we held for the University of Hawaii, at their request. Earl was teamed with Jim Ritterskamp and Gerald Evans, a blue-ribbon panel. All three served as president of the Association during their stellar careers on campus. Both Ritterskamp and Evans had also served as president of E&I Cooperative Services.
Earl’s life-long partner was his wife, Gerri. Perhaps because of their experience with moving from place to place, courtesy of the navy, they had learned to meet people and all but instantly become friends. The two could add warmth to a room just by being there. The Whitmans and Markees stayed in touch after retirement. My wife, Susan, and I are going to miss Earl Whitman.
Earl Kenneth Whitman, 1931-2016
Earl Whitman of Norman, 85, died on Saturday, July 23, 2016. A funeral mass will be held at St. Thomas More Church at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 with Rev. James Goins presiding.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1931 to Carroll and Jean Whitman, he graduated from Somerville High School, where he played on championship baseball and basketball teams. He graduated from Northeastern University in 1955 with honors, and was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy. In June of 1956, he married Geraldine St. Cyr, with whom he recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They had five children in six years and lived in nine states over their 20 years of naval service. During this time, he received his MBA with distinction from the University of Michigan in 1964 and graduated from the Naval War College in 1967.
In 1975 the Whitmans moved to Norman, where he served as Director of Purchasing for the University of Oklahoma, a position he held until his retirement in 1996. He served as President of the National Association of Educational Buyers, as well as regional president for the Purchasing Management Association.
As an active member of St. Thomas More University Parish, Earl served as a Eucharistic Minister, Lector, and on several Parish Committees. His work as treasurer of the St. Vincent de Paul Society helped provide assistance to needy families in the Norman area for many years.
He enjoyed running, walking with the dogs, and playing tennis with the “Ax” group. He and his wife, Gerry, took great pleasure in traveling much of the world, seeing new places and meeting new faces. Regular family outings to Lake Texoma and annual trips back to Massachusetts were times he cherished.
He is survived by his wife, Gerry, and their five children, Kathleen Whitman of Norman; David Whitman and his spouse Peter Stiglin of Sheffield, Massachusetts; Patricia Pemberton, her husband Mickey and grandson Shane of Pottsboro, Texas; Pamela Price, her husband Steve and grandchildren Megan and Christopher of Oklahoma City; Kenneth Whitman and grandchildren Sarah, Kristen, and Alicia of Dallas, Texas; a brother Allister, his wife Lorraine and nephew Douglas of Silver Springs, Maryland, as well as numerous relatives in the Boston area. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the St. Thomas More St. Vincent de Paul Society.