Dare County Chariman of the Board of Commissioners Robert Woodard, presenting a plaque of appreciation to Dr. Nancy White.

From the time it was created in 2003, Dr. Nancy White has been at the helm of the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI). Tonight, Wednesday, Dr. White retired.

The list of Dare County and Eastern North Carolina notables who came forward to pay tribute to her speaks volumes about her legacy and the institution she shepherded.

Today, CSI has become the center for applied ocean research for the UNC system. It is at CSI that studies of how to harness the energy of the Gulf Stream has moved from a dream, to theory, to a possible source of energy. CSI staff have been instrumental in mapping the sounds and estuaries of North Carolina, helping to create realistic projections of flood danger. 

Harry Schiff who owns a boat towing business and has been a commercial fisherman, sat on the Oregon Inlet Commission that created a the resources to keep the inlet open. In his tribute to White, he admitted that when he first heard she was joining the commission, his first thought was that she was just another environmentalist.

Instead what he found was a person of keen intelligence and insight who understood how to get people with disparate views to work together to a common goal.

His tribute was typical of the accolades paid to her.

When CSI was first created, it was housed in a somewhat rustic (?) building in Nags Head. In 2012 the new building was completed—a 90,000 square foot research and teaching facility that rises out of the marsh between Wanchese and Manteo.

Regardless, though, of the facility, White never lost sight of the mission of the CSI to work with local in a cooperative manner, to facilitate research and to build a strong team.

The new interim director will be Michael Piehler, who has been with CSI for some time—a move the staff has applauded. Nonetheless, Ii’s difficult to imagine CSI without her at the helm.