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Ceremony celebrates contributions of UD benefactor Pierre S. du Pont

Sept. 22, 2002--The University of Delaware paid tribute to one of its greatest benefactors with the dedication of the newly expanded Du Pont Hall in an afternoon ceremony, Sunday, Sept. 22, in Mitchell Hall on The Green in Newark.

Du Pont Hall, home of the College of Engineering, honors the memory of P.S. du Pont, the industrialist, philanthropist and educational visionary whose generosity began with an anonymous gift of land to Delaware College, now the University in 1915.

Working with his brother-in-law H. Rodney Sharp, a Delaware College graduate and a member of the Board of Trustees, du Pont made an anonymous gift of land to the college in 1915 that forms the central area of the campus now known as The Green.

See related article
Tsu-Wei Chou named to P.S. du Pont Chair of Engineering

"We are proud to add, as the last piece of construction in the 1915 plan, P.S. du Pont Hall to our number of outstanding facilities,” UD President David P. Roselle, said at the dedication. “Today marks the completion of the buildings on The Green more than 85 years after the plan was conceived.”

Joining Roselle in the platform group for the dedication were Howard E. Cosgrove, chairman of UD’s Board of Trustees; internationally renowned architect Allan Greenberg; junior chemical engineer student Janine Jelks-Seale; and Carol Hoffecker, Richards Professor of History at UD.

In her remarks on the history of The Green, Hoffecker noted that du Pont’s gifts totaling more than $1 million allowed the college to purchase the land on which The Green was to be built, demolish a number of buildings on the site and hire the firm of Day & Klauder, the top collegiate architects in the country of their day to plan the new campus.

Describing Pierre S. du Pont as a reserved businessman who became a public advocate for educational reforms in the First State, Hoffecker said that du Pont’s remarkable gifts to UD and to education throughout Delaware “were never motivated by a desire to be famous, powerful or remembered.

Carol Hoffecker

"The thought of having a building named for him always made P.S. du Pont uncomfortable,” Hoffecker said. “His motivation was to improve the educational opportunities for all Delawareans.”

What du Pont did want was to transform public education in Delaware, a campaign that would consume his time and energy over the course of two decades as he pushed for reforms that included building better schools for the state’s black school children.

“He created professionally managed organizations like Delaware Service Citizens and the Delaware School Auxiliary Association to carry out much of the work, but he, personally, had to bring the message to all parts of Delaware,” Hoffecker said. “Through many legislative battles, and more than a few disappointments, he clung to his deeply held beliefs.”

The original P.S. du Pont Hall, constructed in 1958, four years after his death, was funded by du Pont’s legacy, the Longwood foundation and from the Good Samaritan Foundation.

Hoffecker noted that, although Mr. du Pont would not have wanted the building named for him, it is “rather that we here today need it. For it is we who must remember and learn from the lessons taught by this most rational, scientific, determined man who single-handedly led so many Delawareans to realize the gift of education.”

Allan Greenberg (right) and Howard Cosgrove

Under the guidance of Allen Greenberg, who also designed Gore Hall, the building has undergone a two-year, $27 million expansion and renovation, which began in June 2000.

The three-story addition of 60,000 square feet houses state-of-the-art engineering research laboratories and equipment as well as administrative and faculty office space.

Located between Wolf and Evans halls,, Du Pont Hall is easily recognized by its distinguished Georgian façade and Corinthian pillars, and reflects the Georgian style of other buildings on The Green.

“I came to the UD campus many years ago, and I made a sketch of both Du Pont Hall and Gore Hall on a sketch pad,” Greenberg said. “For me, it is a great honor to have participated in du Pont’s original vision and in the design of Gore Hall and Du Pont Hall.

Remembering her first visit to the UD campus as a high school senior, Janine Jelks-Seale described how she and her mother sat on a bench and marveled at the newly cut grass, the detailed brick walkways and overall beauty of the columned buildings.

Janine Jelks-Seale

Since becoming a tour guide to visiting high school seniors, Jelks-Seale continues to speak about Du Pont Hall and the growth she has witnessed during her two years as a student. In light of her experiences as a student at Delaware, she said “the enchantment of The Green has gown to mean more to me than brick and cut grass.”

In formally dedicating P.S. du Pont Hall, UD Board of Trustees Chairman Howard E. Cosgrove praised Mr. du Pont for a legacy that has shaped and guided the University for nearly a century.

“We now recognize the opportunity to memorialize Mr. du Pont, his leadership and his generosity with the construction of a much-needed building in the very center of the beautiful Green that also was his gift to our institution,” Cosgrove said. “It gives me distinct pleasure to officially name and dedicate this newly expanded P.S. du Pont Hall and to present this facility for use by all citizens of the state.”

The dedication ceremony also included a parade of more than 100 students, bearing state and international flags, many of them in native dress, and a formal ribbon cutting followed by a reception and tours of Du Pont Hall. The presentation of the flags celebrated the role that P.S. du Pont played in establishing the University’s Junior Year Abroad Program, the first program of its kind in the world. UD continues to rank among the top universities with student abroad programs.

Cutting the ribbon and officially opening Du Pont Hall are (from left) Tsu-Wei Chou, P.S. du Pont Chair of Engineering; Eric Kaler, dean of the College of Engineering; President David P. Roselle; Howard E. Cosgrove, chairman of the Board of Trustees; Janine Jelks-Seale, a member of the Class of 2004; Carol E. Hoffecker, Richards Professor of History; and Allan Greenberg, architect.

In front of the building that bears his name, students wave state and international flags in tribute to P.S. du Pont, who made it possible for the University to launch its foreign study program, the first in the world.

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Eric Crossan