The first thing out of Brian White’s mouth is a question: “Can this article also highlight the work of the Lumberjack Athletic Association, instead of just me?”
“I don’t think I’m anything special,” he added, “I really don’t. I just think I work hard.”
Indeed, in addition to having a wife, four boys between the ages of 14 and one-and-a- half, a career and additional volunteer commitments, White is the president of the board of Northern Arizona University’s 600-member athletic association, which is a booster club that raises money for the university’s athletics programs and helps build their fan base.
“Everything else aside, it’s fun,” said White of the association, which meets to tailgate and attend events together. Athletics, White explains, can galvanize a community. They can bring a degree of notoriety to a community such as Flagstaff, especially if one of NAU’s sports teams were to rise to glory like teams from Gonzaga, in Spokane, Wa., or Butler, in Indianapolis, Ind.
Athletes, White says, can become a community’s greatest ambassadors. He does know a thing or two about sports marketing and the value of education. White is vice president of university services for The Collegiate Licensing Co., an Atlanta-based division of IMG World, which helps brand and build the image — through merchandising, among other strategies — for more than 200 universities nationwide, including NAU.
White oversees Collegiate Licensing’s 100 or so smaller university clients located across the nation that have regional fan bases, as distinguished from those universities such as Notre Dame or University of Southern California that have national brands. He is on the road frequently; in fact, 45 of the last 90 days.
Growing up in Flagstaff, White graduated from Coconino High School in 1989, attended NAU, and worked his way through college in the athletic department under his mentor, Dave Brown, who is director of NAU’s sports facilities, which includes the Walkup SkyDome.
“Brian always had great energy and great leadership as a student,” said Brown. “He was always willing to do what it took to complete the task,” and that even included custodial work, he added. White was handed more and more responsibilities and was “almost reckless in his effort to do just about anything he needed to do.”
White’s friend for more than 25 years, Guillermo Cortez, who is a vice president at Shephard Wesnitzer Inc., agrees and adds that among his greatest assets is White’s energy. “And he can strike up a conversation with anyone, about anything,” Cortez said.
Despite studying geographic information systems and satellite imagery in school, White took a job with Collegiate Licensing and moved to Atlanta upon graduating, realizing that he was “more of a people person” than a career in data crunching would ever allow.
Four years ago, he and his family had the opportunity to move back to Flagstaff. Despite the fact that it adds an additional leg to every trip he takes — driving to Phoenix to fly — White says the pay-offs more than make up for it.
“I go all over the country — to 40-some states — and Flagstaff is really a special place,” he said.
“I love my career, but it’s not my top priority,” he said. “To me, that’s what life’s all about: family and friends and community.”
Several years ago, White established an athletic scholarship and named it after his mentor at NAU. One day, he intends to endow it so that athletes can continue to find success in school and in life, and Brown’s name will live on.
“The essence of life is your family and friends,” he said. “When you think you’re dying — and that’s happened to me a few times flying — you think about your family.” FBN