For some members of the du Pont family, service on the Universitys Board of Trustees has been the introduction to a personal involvement in its development. Henry Belin (Hank) du Pont, who served on the Board from 1944 until his death in 1970, provides an excellent example. After majoring in history at Yale, H. B. du Pont had done graduate work in mechanical and aeronautical engineering at M.I.T.
|His unusually diverse educational background, coupled with his life-long interest in history, airplanes, and sailing, set the tone for his broad-based role at Delaware. He was well-informed on many issues, including business, technology, and science, and was a leader in community development.
From the vantage point of his airplane cockpit, H. B. du Pont recognized the implications for the future of New Castle County when Interstate-95 was constructed in the 1960s. Foreseeing a time when land values would rise along I-95, midway between Wilmington and Newark, he bought a large parcel of property there and donated some of it to the University, to be used either for future expansion or to be sold. His other life-time gifts ranged from the enhancement of faculty salaries to the improvement of buildings and the publication of books. When Henry Belin du Pont died in 1970, he bequeathed the University a substantial legacy.
Henry Belins widow, Emily du Pont, was a granddaughter of Victor du Pont, the first member of the family to attend Delaware College. She assumed responsibility for maintaining her late husbands philanthropic interests by contributing to the establishment of the H.B. du Pont Professorship in Chemical Engineering. Her most significant benefactions, however, focused on areas of her own interestart history and art conservation.With its strengths in chemistry, art, and the decorative arts, the University of Delaware was uniquely placed to develop the field of art conservation. In 1987, the J. Paul Getty and Andrew Mellon Foundations provided a grant to the University to develop a graduate research program in this field, on condition that the University raise a matching sum. Together with Crawford and Margaretta du Pont Greenewalt and Octavia du Pont Bredin, Emily du Pont supplied the bulk of the matching funds for the University to begin the nations first Ph.D. program in art conservation. In addition to supplying a growing need for specialists capable of saving and restoring fragile paintings, textiles, and statuary, the students and faculty in this program are doing pioneering research to extend knowledge of successful techniques to salvage deteriorating works of art.
Octavia du Pont Bredin, a daughter of Irénée du Pont, has in her quiet, unassuming way, been another major figure among University donors. Her husband, J. Bruce Bredin, joined the Universitys Board of Trustees in 1957 and was its chair from 1982 through 1988. The Bredins have supported the Universitys general fund through their Bredin Foundation. They also provide salary support for a metallurgist in the Chemical Engineering Department. The first person hired to occupy that position was Professor Charles E. Birchenall. After he died, the Bredins characteristically declined to name the professorship for themselves, but, instead, named it for Birchenall.
Another du Pont who has supported the University is Edith du Pont Riegel Pearson, daughter of Lammot du Pont, Jr. To honor the memory of her late father, in 1958, she provided for the University to receive income from certain of her trust funds throughout her lifetime. She stipulated that one-half of the income be used to purchase reading materials for the library. She also suggested that some of the remainder support teaching about "the advantages of Capitalism." In the 1960s and 1970s, Mrs. Pearson made several additional assignments to support the University. Mrs. Pearsons husband, former State Supreme Court Judge, George Burton Pearson, Jr., joined the Universitys Board in 1951, and chaired its Committee on Education and Training. In recognition of the Pearsonss on-going support, the University named a classroom building in their honor in 1994.
Hugh Rodney Sharp, Jr., took his fathers place on the Universitys Board when the latter died in 1968. Though an alumnus of the University of Virginia, he nonetheless became a major figure at his fathers alma mater. An airplane pilot and fisherman who had spent much of his life by the sea in Maine, Florida, and at his grandparents home in Lewes, Delaware, Hugh Sharp was intrigued by water and weather. The fickleness of weather at sea, its winds, waves and storms, its tides and currents fascinated him. His interests coincided perfectly with the introduction in 1971 of the Universitys College of Marine Studies. This interdisciplinary, research-oriented graduate college built upon Delawares existing strengths in marine biology, geology, and ocean engineering. The colleges primary research facilities were constructed in Lewes. Major funding for the marine studies enterprise came from such federal agencies as the National Sea Grant College Program and the Office of Naval Research, together with the State of Delaware, and private foundations, including the Longwood Foundation. Among the individuals who took an interest in the college, Hugh Sharp stood out. "He just believed in us," says the colleges Dean Carolyn A. Thoroughgood. He was excited about what the faculty and students were doing to expand knowledge of the sea and got personally involved in the life of the college. Hugh Sharps interest in the work of the college and his familiarity with potential sources of funds were crucial in the development of the College of Marine Studies. He successfully encouraged Du Pont Company executives to fund the E. I. du Pont Professorship in Marine Biology, which expanded the Universitys research into the emerging field of marine biochemistry. He also raised money to purchase the Research Vessel, Cape Henlopen and was a founder of a friends organization, the Marine Studies Associates. Sharps enthusiasm for the work of the college was crucial to securing grants from du Pont-related foundations, such as Longwood and Fairplay. It is especially fitting, therefore, that the Universitys Lewes campus has been named the Hugh R. Sharp, Jr., Campus.
Many other du Pont family members have added to, or assisted, particular aspects of the University. Ellen du Pont Meeds Wheelwright, a daughter of T. Coleman du Pont, gave the University her home, "Goodstay," a stone, Colonial house located in Wilmington on Pennsylvania Avenue. Although its existence predated du Pont family ownership, "Goodstay" had been a du Pont property since 1868, when Alfred Victor du Ponts widow, Margaretta Lammot du Pont, purchased it. Mrs. Wheelwrights donation of the housewith its adjacent formal gardenscame just one-hundred years later. Thanks to a grant from Unidel, the University subsequently purchased adjoining property. The Universitys Wilmington Campus now serves many functionsas a site for continuing education and life-long learning, as well as for lectures, meetings, and receptions.
William Winder (Chick) Laird, Jr., whose mother, Mary, was a sister of Pierre S. du Pont, also gave the University numerous gifts. Chief among them was a valuable property located on New London Road in northwest Newark, which is fittingly called the Laird Campus. This land, located within walking distance of the main campus, is the site of the Universitys major conference center, John M. Clayton Hall, built in 1972. Two high-rise residence halls and several more traditional residence halls, with an accompanying dining facility, also occupy this site. When Chick Laird donated the New London Road property, it was not contiguous to the main campus. To remedy that, he anonymously acquired additional parcels of land between the two parts of the campus. In the 1980s, this connective property became the location for the Universitys Ray Street Residence Hall Complex. Chick Lairds son, George W. Laird, who died in 1977 while still in his thirties, provided a bequest to the University that is used for computer-assisted engineering. To honor his memory, his friends contributed funds to create the George W. Laird Merit Fellowship.
Lammot du Pont Copeland, son of Pierre S. du Ponts sister, Louisa dAndelot du Pont, and Charles Copeland, and Lammots wife, Pamela Cunningham Copeland, have also been generous donors. In 1962, when several of the Universitys humanities departments were first offering doctoral degrees, Lammot du Pont Copeland established the Andelot fellowships. Those fellowships paid tuition and stipends for graduate students in History, English, Modern Languages, and Art History for a twenty-year period.