University of Pittsburgh

Alumni Spotlight: Philadelphia Business Executive Honored for Service and Professional Success

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In recognition of his achievements in business and his commitment to philanthropic endeavors, Richard White (MBA ’91) was named a 2014 Minority Business Leader by the Philadelphia Business Journal.

White is the global business director for the health business at FMC Corporation, a $4 billion chemical company based in Philadelphia. The company’s products have almost boundless applications. They are used in herbicides and pesticides, food ingredients, household items, cosmetics, toothpaste, over-the-counter medication, and minerals. So if in the past year you’ve eaten corn, brushed your teeth, or taken a pain reliever, you’ve probably used a product with FMC ingredients.

White is in charge of a $450 million product segment with clients in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry. He sets sales and investment strategy, oversees a cross-functional team of about two-dozen managers, and reports directly to the company president.

“I’m a chemist by nature, but have always been interested in the business side of things. Quite frankly, I would never have been able to progress in my career without my MBA.” White says.

In the late 1980s, White was working as a development chemist at PPG Industries in Pittsburgh when he enrolled in the Part-Time MBA program of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.

The move paid off. He left PPG and joined the chemical company Arkema to work in sales and marketing roles. In 1998, he joined FMC Corporation. He began as a business manager in the specialty chemical group, was promoted to various director of marketing and sales positions within the industrial chemicals group, and was later promoted to director of global procurement before moving into his current role.

As White moved up in his career, he never lost sight of how important it is to give back to his community. He is a member of FMC’s Philanthropy Committee and is active in a number of roles outside of work.

He serves on the Board of Trustees for Lincoln University, the first degree-granting historically Black College and University in the United States, located about an hour west of Philadelphia. White did not go to school there, but his father did.

White also serves on the board of the Chemical Education Foundation, an organization that promotes chemistry education in public schools. He is a board member of JEVS Human Services, an organization that serves people in need throughout the greater Delaware Valley. Additionally, White is a board member at his Bethany Baptist Church and he co-founded his own nonprofit organization, the Rachel Aerin White Foundation, which helps families impacted by rare cancers. The foundation has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.

“I come to work every day and hope I do a great job, but giving back is so important to me as well,” White says. “When you have been blessed as I have with various opportunities, giving back should be a natural occurrence. Giving feeds the soul and at the end of the day we are entitled to nothing, but entrusted with much.”

White says he enjoys working at FMC because it has given him the chance to travel all over the world — everywhere so far except for Russia and Africa, he says. Additionally, he’s able to work for a company that, together with its partners, is making products that are widely used to improve people’s health.

White’s business unit makes ingredients in Omega-3 fish oils, which research studies have shown can improve heart and brain health.

“The fish oil is what we provide.  It’s made from anchovies for the most part. Most come from off the coast of Peru,” he says.

Additionally, his business unit makes the carrier for the pills and capsules used in most medicines.

“We make the ingredients that keep the drugs together. In a tablet, 10 percent of it is the active ingredient and drug, and the rest of it is the stuff we make,” he says.

White says that it was an honor to be recognized as a 2014 Minority Business Leader by the Philadelphia Business Journal and he is looking forward to continuing to achieve results both in his career and as a volunteer in the community.