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Fred Whyte, ODU Board of Visitors Member and Former Rector, Dies

Fred J. Whyte, a member of Old Dominion's Board of Visitors and former University rector died July 7.

Whyte was appointed to the Board of Visitors in 2010 and served as rector from 2013 to 2014. At the time of his death, Whyte served as chair of the board's Administration and Finance Committee and a member of the Student Enhancement and Engagement Committee

He was president of Virginia Beach-based STIHL Inc. for 23 years until his retirement in 2015.

Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick said Whyte was a remarkable friend and colleague who worked tirelessly, both in his professional career and at the University.

"Fred worked for STIHL for 44 years and helped build it into one of our region's largest companies. His leadership style embraced integrity, decency and the personal touch," President Broderick said. "That was no different at Old Dominion, where he encouraged not just me and other administrators, but also faculty, staff members and students."

Under Whyte's leadership at STIHL, the company experienced 17 consecutive years of annual increases in sales and revenue prior to the recession. Also during that time, STIHL was the number-one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment in America.

Whyte began his STIHL career in 1971, working as a regional manager for STIHL American, the same company where his father had worked, according to an obituary. He moved up the ranks at STIHL in the U.S. and at the age of 34, led STIHL's expansion and operations into Canada. In 1992, Whyte returned to the United States as president of STIHL Inc. in Virginia Beach. During his tenure as president, he developed the company from a moderately-known brand to the number one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment in America. After serving STIHL across North America for more than 44 years, Whyte retired as president, and was named sole director and chairman of the board of directors for STIHL Inc.

In addition to his service to STIHL, he was also a well-respected leader of both the outdoor power equipment industry and the local Hampton Roads community. He served as chairman of the board of directors for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and president of the Portable Power Equipment Manufacturers Association (PPEMA), the obituary said.

In 2015, the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) recognized Whyte with the Frank Armstrong III Service Award for his contributions to the Virginia manufacturing sector and the association. In 2016, Whyte was honored by the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates with a joint resolution outlining his successful tenure with STIHL Inc. He was a member of Mocha Shrine in London, Ontario and Clarksville Masonic Lodge No. 668 in Iowa City, Iowa. Whyte also served as a board member on the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters Children's Health Foundation board of directors.

"Fred was an avid sports fan, outdoor enthusiast and reader. Like many true Scotsmen, he played the bagpipes and mastered the instrument individually and as a member of pipe bands in the U.S. and Canada," Whyte's family wrote in the obituary. "He cherished his family, his dogs, a wee dram, and swimming in the evening in his backyard pool. His life, his work, his dedication to family, friends and business associates was unmatched and he will be celebrated for years to come."

Whyte, a native of Vancouver, Canada, graduated from Seattle University and the University of Iowa. He is survived by his wife, Karen; son, John; daughter, Jean and; two granddaughters.

A funeral service for Whyte will be held on Friday, July 14 at 1 p.m. at London Bridge Baptist Church, located at 2460 Potters Road, Virginia Beach.

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