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Creator of Gore-Tex honored as innovator and entrepreneur

10:40 a.m., June 16, 2003--The Chemists' Club has awarded its 2003 Winthrop-Sears Medal to Robert W. Gore, chairman of W.L. Gore & Associates and vice chairman of the University of Delaware Board of Trustees and a UD alumnus.

The medal, which recognizes entrepreneurial achievement that contributes to the vitality of the chemical industry and the betterment of mankind, was presented at a black tie dinner on Thursday evening, June 12, at historic Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia. The event was held in conjunction with the Chemical Heritage Foundation's Heritage Day ceremonies

Previous Winthrop- Sears awardees include Gordon Cain, Jon Huntsman, James Mack, Leonard Pool, Harold Sorgenti and Daniel Terra.

Gore is an alumnus of UD’s College of Engineering, having graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He has been a staunch supporter of the University, serving as a member of the University of Delaware Research Foundation and as a member of the Board of Trustees.

Gore also has been a generous benefactor and his $18.5 million gift, one of the largest given by an alumnus, made possible the construction of Gore Hall.

In announcing the Winthrop-Sears Medal, Paul Pendorf, president of The Chemists' Club said, “A leader, innovator and creator of Gore-Tex material, one of the most versatile products in the world, Bob has combined innovation with entrepreneurship to expand the family business into one of the most successful and admired private companies in the world.”

“The honor bestowed by the professional societies involved was well-deserved and Bob Gore's after-dinner talk on the history of W. L. Gore
& Associates was outstanding,” David P. Roselle, UD president, said.

Eric Kaler, Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering and dean of the UD College of Engineering, said, “We all take special pride in the accomplishments of our alumni. The Winthrop-Sears Medal is recognition of a magnificent invention that has changed our way of living.”

Gore-Tex fabric, the world's first breathable, waterproof fabric, is worn by outdoor enthusiats everywhere, including Arctic explorers, hikers, sailors, cyclists, firefighters and police officers. A diverse spectrum of applications–filtration, sealants, medical products, electronics and fabrics–make use of his pioneering discoveries.

The presentation of the Winthrop-Sears Medal was the final event of a full day devoted to honoring achievement in the chemical and molecular sciences. Heritage Day began with the Othmer Gold Medal Luncheon honoring John D. Baldeschwieler and George S. Hammond. In the late afternoon, Ralph F. Hirschmann received the American Institute of Chemist's Gold Medal at the opening of an awards reception.

After the reception, Gore received the Winthrop-Sears Medal at a dinner at nearby Carpenters' Hall.

The medal is named in honor of two of colonial America's earliest chemical entrepreneurs John Winthrop Jr. and John Sears. Winthrop built and operated a salt works in Massachusetts in 1648. Sears, who also was a salt producer in Massachusetts in the 1700s, created a radical improvement in production efficiency that was adopted industry-wide.

Perhaps best known for its consumer products like Gore-Tex fabric, Glide dental floss and Elixir guitar strings, W.L. Gore & Associates is a leading manufacturer of thousands of advanced technology products for the electronics, industrial, fabrics and medical markets. The company is headquartered in Newark and employs approximately 6,000 associates in 45 facilities throughout the world.

The Chemists' Club, headquartered in New York, is a 105-year-old institution. Together with its affiliates and associated organizations, the club supports the growth of the chemical and related industries by providing an environment that develops and incubates new ideas through education, networking and access to professional support.

Photo by Eric Crossan