Global Ministries is saddened to learn of the death of Sterling Whitener

Global Ministries is saddened to learn of the death of Sterling Whitener

Sterling Hegnauer Whitener
June 27, 1921 – January 28, 2017

sterling_whitener.jpgDr. Sterling Hegnauer Whitener was born in China to missionary parents on June 27, 1921 and lived a life of faith, service, and adventure, died at his home at Friends Homes West in Greensboro on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. He was 95. As recounted in his 2013 book, In the Shadow of the Pagoda, Dr. Whitener’s love of China and his life growing up during the pre-war years helped to form his passionate personality. He thrived at the Kuling American School located on the mountain of Lushan in Central China. 

After graduating from Catawba College in Salisbury in 1942, and Yale Divinity School in 1945, his strong desire to serve led him and his bride, Barbara Brown Whitener, back to China in 1946 to serve as missionaries for a predecessor mission body which became the United Church Board for World Ministries (UCBWM), which today is Global Ministries. Forced to leave after the Communist take-over, Dr. Whitener and his family moved to Hong Kong, where they served for 15 years, working with church and government agencies to resettle refugees flooding out of China.  On a furlough in 1963-65, Dr. Whitener earned a Masters in Social Work from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Catawba College. 

Returning to the United States permanently in 1967, Dr. Whitener forged a national reputation by developing an accredited social work program at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. He also became a gerontology specialist and undertook consulting as a proponent of Continuing Care Retirement Communities. 

With Barbara and their six children, Sterling embraced a warm family life while enthusiastically gardening, hiking near their vacation cottage in Blowing Rock, and traveling the world, including ten trips back to China. He retired in 1987, and in 1994 he and Barbara were in the very first cohort of residents at the newly built Friends Homes West in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

Dr. Whitener is survived by his wife, Barbara, and five children – Chris, Katrina, Kim, Bonnie, and Dana, (daughter Karen 1948-2001), ten grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. Condolences may be sent to his wife, Mrs. Barbara Whitener, 6100 West Friendly Avenue, Apartment 1309, Greensboro, NC 27410. 

A memorial service was held in Greensboro on February 2, 2017. The family welcomes memorial gifts to Global Ministries, Post Office Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or online at