When riding a UVA bus, you tend to see quite a few student-athletes. One day, while on a bus heading toward the John Paul Jones Arena, UVA Director of Transportation Rebecca White turned around and asked the two men sitting behind her, “Are you guys athletes?” They said yes, so she asked what sport they played.
“Well, ma’am, I play baseball,” said one of the players.
“Oh, what’s your name?”
“My name is Nathan Kirby,” he said.
“Dude!” White blurted out. “You are gonna be our Friday night starter!”
A dedicated UVA sports fan for decades, White, a member of the class of ’84, has attended quite a few momentous games. She was there to see the basketball team give “a big Wahoo welcome” to networks on one of the team’s first nationally televised games, where Ralph Sampson scored 35 points. She was there for the last game at UHall and the first game at the JPJ. She was there in Durham, North Carolina, when the baseball team won the ACC tournament in 2011.
But her favorite memory of all might be when she listened on the radio as UVA won the College World Series. She was shaking with nerves and excitement as Kirby, the same player she met by chance on the bus, pitched the last three outs that won Virginia its first national championship.
White loves college sports because they’re so unpredictable. “Anything could happen,” she says. “In professional sports, everything seems so predetermined. In college sports anything can happen at any moment.”
From encounters on buses to running into players in airports (“Akil Mitchell!” White once yelled in the Charlotte airport; Mitchell, looming above the rest of the crowd at 6’8”, turned and waved), White has met her share of UVA players and staff. On her desk, a baseball signed by coach Brian O’Connor sits next to a framed photo of White and her husband posing with basketball coach Tony Bennett.
“All these people that play and coach, they are so passionate about what they’re doing, and they’re so smart,” says White. Win or lose, sports have been one of bright points of her time at UVA, from being an undergrad cheering on her classmates to becoming the transportation department director, who makes sure the football team gets home safely from the airport. And she intends to grow her UVA sports knowledge: She’s already a fan of football, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, wrestling and lacrosse, and says she’s adding field hockey, volleyball, diving, women’s rowing, squash, track and softball to her list.
And White follows the careers of UVA’s stars even after they move on from the university.
“I can’t wait until Malcolm Brogdon turns 35,” White says, “so I can finally write him in as president for the rest of my life.”