In his first two years after college, Ralph White managed branches of the American Express International Banking Corporation in Okinawa and Vietnam under contract with the U.S. Treasury.
In 1973 White joined The Chase Manhattan Bank and, following a yearlong training program in New York, worked as a business development officer in Chase branches in Thailand and Hong Kong. During his stint in Thailand, he was temporarily assigned to Vietnam to close the bank’s Saigon branch during the fall of Saigon, for which he was awarded the organization’s highest honor: Chase’s President’s Award. Upon return to Chase’s New York headquarters in 1981 he worked in the International Strategic Planning Division. At the time he left Chase he was a vice president.
Over the next twenty years, White enjoyed a rewarding career as a business development officer with three foreign banks, while also finding the time to earn an MBA at Columbia University. He completed his career as a senior vice president in financial engineering at Marsh and McLennan Securities.
On April 1, 2001, White was turned down for an internal transfer within Marsh which would have put him on the 93rd floor of World Trade Center, Tower One. Four months later, on September 11, everyone in that office was killed, including the officer who got the job for which White was turned down. He lost five friends that day. The incident precipitated an epiphany and White resolved to change the trajectory of his life.
In 2009 he founded the Columbia Fiction Foundry, a writing workshop under Columbia University’s Office of Alumni and Development. After serving as the organization’s president for its first decade, White continues to serve as its chairman.
He is the author of Getting Out of Saigon, How a 27 Year Old Banker Saved 113 Vietnamese Civilians, and Litchfield, a local history of his hometown, Litchfield, CT, including 200 vintage photographs, published in 2011 in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series.
Mr. White lives in New York City and Litchfield, Connecticut. He is in a relationship, and is childless—unless you count the 113 Vietnamese refugees he adopted and brought to America during the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Photo: P. Decker
Mr. White as he looked in 1975, scuba diving in the Similan Islands not long after the fall of Saigon. The Andaman Sea green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, is a protected species and the author released it unharmed.
Photo: Donald Petrie