Among Du Pont Company executives of the first half of the twentieth century were several men who made substantial benefactions to the University of Delaware. H. Fletcher Brown, Robert Ruliph Morgan (R.R.M.) Carpenter, and his younger brother, Walter Carpenter, who chaired the Universitys board, are notable examples. Of these, only R.R.M. Carpenter was directly connected to the du Pont family through his marriage to Margaretta du Pont, who was a sister of Pierre S. du Pont and Isabella du Pont Sharp.
|When R.R.M. Carpenter joined the Universitys Board of Trustees in 1940, he agreed to lead the Boards Committee on Athletics and Physical Education. He thus began a tradition, as yet unbroken, of Carpenter family service to the University that has focused on athletics. On the eve of World War II, the Universitys athletic facilities, especially those for male students, were sadly inadequate. Little attention had been given to keeping instruction in physical education abreast of other academic improvements and the University cut a mediocre figure in intercollegiate sports. During the difficult war years, R.R.M. Carpenter was the catalyst for the development of those programs. His first priority was to build a new gymnasium. In spite of wartime restrictions on building materials, the gymnasium was justified because it could serve as a drilling field for ROTC. The State and federal governments agreed to pay for the building, but later, both backed away from their commitments and R.R.M. Carpenter stepped in to fund the structure that now bears his name.
In addition to his timely assistance with the sports building project, R.R.M. Carpenter made an even more significant gift to the University by interesting his son, R.R.M. (Bob) Carpenter, Jr., in Delawares athletic program. In 1945, Bob Carpenter replaced his father on the Universitys Board of Trustees and, like his father before him, and his son, Ruly, after him, chaired the Boards Committee on Athletics. Bob Carpenters name became so intertwined with University of Delaware sports and his gifts to its athletics programs so generous that many people have assumed that he was an alumnus. He was not. A graduate of Wilmingtons Tower Hill School, Bob Carpenter attended Duke University in the late 1930s, where he played football. Bob Carpenter was back in Delaware by 1940 when his father joined the Universitys Board. In that year, together with fellow sportsmen Henry Belin du Pont and John J. DeLuca, an attorney, Bob Carpenter donated the funds that began the vitalization of the Universitys sports program. Bob helped to locate and hire a new head football coach, William D. (Bill) Murray, whom he had known in North Carolina. Within three years, Murray turned a losing football team into an undefeated team that began Delaware footballs winning tradition. In the decades that followed, Bob Carpenter gave generously not only to support Delawares intercollegiate athletic teams, but also to assist physical education, recreational sports, and the establishment of athletics-related research at the University.
Bob Carpenter was a man of many interestsnearly all related to sports. He owned the Philadelphia Phillies for three decades; he bred hunting dogs; he organized sports events to assist in the care of retarded children; and he hunted on his plantation in South Carolina. But, his most longstanding and deepest commitment was to University of Delaware football. David M. Nelson, who succeeded Bill Murray as the Universitys football coach and was later Director of Athletics and Dean of Physical Education, Athletics and Recreation, worked closely with Carpenter for forty years. Bob Carpenter, Nelson said, "did everything he could to support us." Nelson credited Carpenter with creating Delawares philosophical commitment to make education the cornerstone of its athletics program and to use athletics as a means to help young people mature into responsible adults. Bob Carpenter "had a dream to provide youngsters who wanted to play college football and couldnt afford to attend school the opportunity to do so," Nelson said. He "never lost sight of his primary objective . . . assisting youngsters with the courage and talent to play football to receive a first-class education."
When Bob Carpenter died in 1990, plans were already under way to construct a five-thousand-seat indoor, sports-convocation center to be named in his honor. Bobs son, Ruly Carpenter, successfully led the campaign for the Bob Carpenter Sports/Convocation Center, now affectionately known to students as "The Bob." Members of the du Pont and Carpenter families joined many other donors and the State of Delaware in completing this twenty-million-dollar tribute to the man whose years of personal involvement and financial support had earned him the title "Father of Modern Day University of Delaware Intercollegiate Athletics."
At the other end of the campus, the Carpenter Sports Building has been expanded and improved several times since it was constructed during World War II. While a major renovation was completed in 2000, a significant enhancement occurred in the mid-1960s, when a swimming-pool wing was added and other facilities were enlarged to meet the needs of expanded enrollment. The primary source of funds for that project, amounting to one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars, came from the Unidel Foundation, the creation of Miss Amy du Pont.
Amy E. du Pont (1875-1962) was the daughter of Eugene du Pont, a scientist by training and temperament who presided over the Du Pont Company from 1889 to 1902. Her mother was Amelia du Pont, who descended from the Victor Marie branch of the family. In his will, Eugene du Pont provided equally for his five children, but whereas his sons inherited their portions outright, the daughters portions were held in trust for them. The daughters could, however, gain discretion over the use of the corpus of their inheritance through their wills.
Amy du Pont never married. Horses were her passion, but she also took an interest in philanthropic endeavors, centered particularly on the Womens College of Delaware. In 1939, she joined the Colleges Advisory Committee. That same year, she undertook through her lawyer, former federal court Judge Hugh M. Morris, who then chaired the University of Delawares Board of Trustees, to create a philanthropic foundation to honor her father. The foundation was called Unidel.
Amy du Pont and Judge Morris planned the Unidel Foundation carefully. Although its Board was to have a broad mandate, the primary purpose of the Foundation was "to aid and promote higher education in the State of Delaware, and to increase, enlarge and improve the scientific and educational advantages and opportunities of its people by gifts and contributions . . . to the University of Delaware." Fearing that knowledge of the Foundations resources might undermine the State governments sense of responsibility for the University, Unidel was not to support the institutions basic budget, but, rather, to provide enhancements beyond what the taxpayers should be expected to support. Unidels resources and gifts were modest throughout the remainder of Miss Amys life. The Foundations initial grants went to the Womens College to purchase a residence for its Dean and to support faculty salaries in home economics. With her death in 1962, the principal corpus of her inheritance, then valued at twenty-five million dollars, came to Unidel. The decision to fund the addition to the Carpenter Sports Building was among the trustees first actions after Miss Amys death.
Unlike the endowment funds supplied by H. Rodney Sharp, Pierre S. du Pont, and others, Unidels money is not part of the Universitys endowment, but there has always been considerable overlap between the Universitys Board of Trustees and the Board of the Foundation. Judge George Burton Pearson, Jr., husband of Edith du Pont Riegel Pearson and a University Trustee from 1951 until his death in 1999 at the age of 94, was the major link. He served on Unidels Board from the Foundations creation in 1939, and was its Chairman from 1962 until his death. Other du Pont family members who have served on the Unidel Board include J. Bruce Bredin, Irénée du Pont, Jr., and Alfred E. Bissell. With rare exceptions the Unidel Board has agreed to finance projects suggested to it by University administrators so long as those projects fit within Unidels mandate. Among the many grants that the University has received from Unidel, the one that, one suspects, would have made Miss Amy most pleased has been the trustees ongoing support for the Eugene du Pont Scholarship Program. Since its inception in 1980, the Eugene du Pont Scholarships have provided aid to hundreds of unusually deserving students. The program is the centerpiece of student financial support for the Universitys highly successful Honors Program.
The most visible reminder of Amy du Ponts ongoing benefaction to the University is the Amy E. du Pont Music Building, a major cultural amenity for the University and the region. The building, which includes a recital hall and practice rooms, was constructed in 1973, thanks to a Unidel grant. Amy du Ponts Foundation also has played a significant role in attracting and compensating high-quality faculty who have strengthened many academic units. Unidels grants have raised the level of University teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The many examples of Unidels impact include the creation of named professorships, support for graduate fellowships, the purchase of scientific equipment, and funding book purchases for the Morris Library. In the period between 1939, when the Foundation was created, and 1994, Unidel provided close to seventy-eight million dollars to enhance University of Delaware programs. The total gifts from Unidel through 1999 are one hundred twelve million, three hundred twenty-six thousand dollars. Each year, this remarkable bequest from a woman who sought to honor her father continues to support the work of scholars and their students.