Vol. 20, No. 13
April 5, 2001
Book illustrates du Pont family's
Wh\en Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours and his family, including his son Eleuthuère Irénée, the founder of what was to become the Du Pont Co., first landed on American shores on New Year's Day in 1800, the Academy of Newark was a fledgling, struggling institution.
How this small school for boys evolved into a top-ranked research university, with the impact of generous support from members of the du Pont family is the theme of a book, Familiar Relations: The du Ponts and the University of Delaware, written by UD historian Carol Hoffecker, Richards Professor of History, and published by the University.
President David P. Roselle said UD commissioned the book to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the du Ponts in America. "Prof. Hoffecker's book illustrates the significant impact family members have had on the University of Delaware, chronicling the very special relationships with members of the du Pont family that the University has enjoyed over the years," Roselle said.
Hoffecker carried out her research at the Hagley Museum and in the University Archives.
"One of the things I tried to emphasize in the book is that so many du Pont family members have contributed to the University in a variety of ways. Although Pierre du Pont, Amy du Pont, the Carpenters and the Sharps are the best-known benefactors, others also have contributed gifts of lasting impact, such as Jean Foulke du Pont, whose interest in prison reform led to UD's Criminal Justice Program. Lammot du Pont's collection of Native American artifacts, given by his son Willis, and the collection of minerals in the Irénée du Pont Mineral Room are exceptional, educational resources for students and the community," Hoffecker said.
"I enjoyed researching and writing the book. It records an interesting and important part of the University's and Delaware's history," Hoffecker said.
As Hoffecker points out in her book, the tradition of the importance of education has been a cornerstone of the du Pont family. One of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours' first endeavors in America was to write a treatise on education, National Education in the United States of America, at the request of Vice President Thomas Jefferson.
Hoffecker wrote, "Du Pont de Nemours's belief in the centrality of education to human happiness and to progress constituted his greatest blessing to his descendants. His heritage was deeply imbedded in the values, goals and commitments of subsequent generations of du Ponts."
One of the earliest du Ponts associated with the University was Victor du Pont, who, at the age of 14, was the first of the family to attend what was then
Delaware College. He referred to himself as "Victor du Pont, collegian, Newark." Upon his graduation in 1845, he continued his education at Harvard University and became a leading attorney in Wilmington. His father Charles I. du Pont, a textile manufacturer, farmer and bank director, served on the college's Board of Trustees. Generations of du Ponts have followed in Victor's footsteps to the present time, Hoffecker said.
It was not until the 20th century that the family began to become seriously involved in the University, its needs and its future, Hoffecker writes.
One of the influences behind the generosity of the du Ponts was a loyal alumnus of the Class of 1900, Hugh Rodney Sharp, who married Isabella Mathieu du Pont, the sister of Pierre S. du Pont. As Pierre's personal secretary, Sharp worked closely with him on business and personal projects. In 1913 when plans for the Delaware College for Women were under way, Sharp was asked to help devise a plan for the development of the Men's College, and he interested P.S. in the project. After a successful alumni fundraising campaign and the installation of Samuel Chiles Mitchell as president, Mr. du Pont became interested in the school and began his generous, often anonymous, gifts to the University, most important of which was his purchase of the land between Main Street and the Women's College and erection of Harter and Wolf halls.
Other gifts included outings to The Playhouse in Wilmington for the entire college, with a special train to Wilmington and trolleys to the theatre.
Pierre also supported the United States' first study-abroad program, initiated by Raymond Kirkbride, a young French professor, The busy business leader met the first group in New York and gave them a gala send-off.
Sharp himself supported the University in many ways, and Mitchell Hall is but one testament of his generosity. After his wife, Isabella, died in 1946, Sharp gave the income from her trust to several organizations, most especially the University, until his own death in 1968. The total value of the endowment fund by then exceeded $58 million.
Amy E. du Pont, for whom the music building is named, was another important person in the history of UD. She created the Unidel Foundation, in honor of her father Eugene du Pont, which supports the University in many ways. One such is the Eugene du Pont Scholarship Program, which attracts outstanding students to the University.
Sports and athletics received a boost from the Carpenter family. R.R.M. Carpenter, who joined the Board of Trustees in 1940, was married to Margaretta du Pont, Pierre and Isabella's sister. His son, Bob, now deceased, and later Bob's son, Ruly, also have been generous benefactors and board members.
Such outstanding graduate programs as the Winterthur Program in early American culture, under the auspices of Henry F. du Pont, the Hagley program, on the history of technology and industrialization, and the Longwood program in ornamental horticulture also have benefited from du Pont family members' support and foresight.?
As Hoffecker writes, "How pleased Pierre and Rodney Sharp might be if they could see how sound their investment in the University has turned out to be."
She concludes the book by writing, "We who learn, study and create at the University salute this remarkable family, whose ongoing partnership with us continues to make the University a place that can bring a better future to all who are touched by it."
Familiar Relations was designed by Monroe Givens and edited by Mary Hempel of public relations. It was printed by UD's Graphic Communications Center.
The 56-page, perfect-bound book, which is lavishly illustrated with rare historic photos, is on sale at the UD Bookstore. Cost is $20.
As part of the Bach's Lunches series, Carol Hoffecker. Richards Professor of History, will discuss her book, Familiar Relations: The du Ponts and the University of Delaware, from 12:10-12:50 p.m., Tuesday, April 10, at Bayard Sharp Hall. Those attending may bring their own lunches or purchase items from a Blue and Gold Club food cart outside. Seating is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signed by the author