By Jan Worth-Nelson
Much has already has been written, and will be written in the coming days about the life and death today of William S. White, longtime executive at the top of the C.S. Mott Foundation, at 82. He was the grandson-in-law who ran the multi-billion dollar foundation that has played a huge role in the fate and shape of the city of Flint–and his son, Ridgway White, is now C.E.O. and president.
We offer just the perspective of East Village Magazine, which like many, many other efforts in Flint has benefited from Mott Foundation support. EVM is in the third year of a second three-year grant first received just before the death of EVM founder Gary Custer in 2015.
But that was not the first support offered to EVM from Bill White’s Mott Foundation.
Ed Custer, Gary Custer’s brother, recalled “Bill White and the Mott Foundation were there for EVM in the beginning for the first four issues in the summer of 1976 [with a seed grant] and White never forgot it when I spoke with him on rare occasions.”
White reportedly had a fondness for Custer and East Village Magazine, telling others that EVM was the best example of sustainability he could think of. The magazine went on, operating on a shoestring and without further aid from the Foundation for decades after that initial investment; Gary Custer, an old-school journalist with stubbornly independent free press values, occasionally voiced ambivalence about seeking or receiving aid from a rich patron on “the 12th floor” (of the Mott Foundation building). But White continued to keep an eye on his little journalism investment, and two fan letters he sent EVM over the years–the most recent in 2016– remain cherished artifacts of our accomplishments.
By early evening, a small memorial already was set out at the entrance of the Mott Foundation Building.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.