University of Delaware

CONTENTS Introduction Laying the Foundation The Loyal Alumnus and the Focused Philanthropist
Gifts Timeline Program Enrichment Personal Interest Connections
Board Connections A Laboratory and a Legacy Ongoing Relations

[page 3]

The building that stands at the center of the Mall is Memorial Hall, built in 1924 to be the library for both Colleges and Delaware’s major memorial to her 262 sons who lost their lives in World War I. President Mitchell first suggested the need for such a building in a letter to H. Rodney Sharp in November 1918.[9] Shortly thereafter, Charles Klauder sent Sharp a preliminary design for the building based loosely on Philadelphia’s square-shaped Pennsylvania Hospital, which had been built in the 1790s.

H. Rodney Sharp examined the library plans carefully and suggested modifications that were incorporated into the final design. He also took an active role in organizing the fund-raising drive for the building. The canvass, which was the most far-reaching and inclusive such effort in First State history, aimed not only to attract contributions from alumni, faculty, and people of wealth, but from every Delawarean, including the students of the two Colleges and school children throughout the State.
Based on the theme, "He is not dead who giveth life to knowledge," all were urged to give their coins and dollars to show that "Delaware does not forget." As chairman of the Wilmington branch of the campaign, H. Rodney Sharp canvassed the wealthiest potential donors. His efforts raised most of the money, including the largest single contribution, that of Pierre S. du Pont for $80,759.70. Other du Pont family members who contributed generously to the campaign included Mrs. Alexis I. du Pont, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene E. du Pont, Mr. and Mrs. H. Rodney Sharp, Senator and Mrs. T. Coleman du Pont, and Mr. and Mrs. Irénée du Pont. The total cost of the building was $330,000, to which was added an endowment of $50,000 and $20,000 for books.

The completion of the library in 1925 marked an important milestone in the history of the University. It consolidated the meager library collections of the Men’s and Women’s Colleges and provided space for expansion into a respectable college library. Before the library project could be realized, Samuel C. Mitchell resigned the presidency at Delaware to return to teaching in his native Virginia. In a letter of appreciation addressed to Pierre S. du Pont, Mitchell wrote that "you and Mr. Sharp have meant everything to me in the work here, and I can never thank you sufficiently for all your kindness and moral support. I have absolute faith in the future of the College, owing to the growth which your great gifts have made possible."[10]

President Mitchell’s successor, Walter Hullihen, aspired to move the institution forward on many fronts. His first major act as President was to convince the board to combine the sex-segregated colleges under the name University of Delaware. Hullihen kept H. Rodney Sharp closely informed on University affairs even while the Sharp family was enjoying a leisurely world tour in 1921-1922. Writing on a portable typewriter as he traveled by train from New York to Wilmington, Hullihen told Sharp that he had held back sending him a thank-you letter for the library campaign until he had written all the other letters of thanks. "Now I come to you and I do not know what to say. I cannot use the perfunctory phrases I had to use in the other letters. But I do want you to know how very deeply I appreciate and how completely I understand what you have done for the University. . . ." [11]

Perhaps because H. Rodney Sharp was abroad during Walter Hullihen’s initial year in Newark, the new President developed a direct relationship with Pierre du Pont, which greatly influenced developments at the University during the 1920s. Through Service Citizens, Pierre’s organization to improve education in Delaware, the University received funding to enlarge its heating plant and to build the Kent Dining Hall at the Women’s College. Pierre personally gave money to build two fraternity houses on the men’s campus and to purchase more land for University expansion. Pierre also supplemented the salaries of the Dean of Engineering and of a Professor of Economics whom Hullihen was especially eager to attract to Delaware. In the 1930s, Pierre du Pont funded pensions for retirement-age faculty. The University returned his many favors in its own small way when the newly created University of Delaware Press agreed to publish an English translation of Pierre’s great-grandfather, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours’s report to Thomas Jefferson on education, entitled National Education in the United States of America. Pierre’s brother, Irénée du Pont, oversaw the distribution of copies of this book to prominent American educators and political leaders, including congressmen and senators. In 1922, the University publicly honored its rather conspicuous "anonymous" donor with the degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

Among Pierre du Pont’s most memorable contributions to the University in the 1920s and early 1930s were his annual invitations to students and staff to attend theatrical performances in Wilmington. With his characteristic attention to detail, Pierre du Pont not only provided tickets to the entire student body and faculty to see the best (and most educational) play presented each season at the Hotel Du Pont’s Playhouse, he also supplied a special train to bring those several hundred people to Wilmington. He then arranged to have trolley cars transport them from the Baltimore and Ohio station on Union Street to the Du Pont Building. To judge from the appreciative tone of the many letters of thanks that Pierre received from students, faculty, and administrators, this was an especially welcome and treasured gift to be savored and remembered.

Another unusual, indeed unique, contribution of Pierre S. du Pont to expanding educational opportunities at the University of Delaware was his agreement to underwrite the initial years of the foreign study program. The First World War had opened the eyes of many people to the need for Americans to learn more about Europe as a means to encourage peaceful relations, cultural enlightenment, and the expansion of international trade. In 1920, a young Professor of French named Raymond W. Kirkbride convinced newly inaugurated President Walter Hullihen that the University should inaugurate a foreign study program. The idea was entirely novel. Until that time, Americans had ventured across the Atlantic to do graduate study at European universities, but no program existed at any American college or university whereby undergraduate students could earn credit for study done at foreign universities. Raymond Kirkbride proposed to shepherd a group of students to France for a year. During that year, the students would live with French families, study at a French university, and earn credits toward their baccalaureate degrees at the University of Delaware.

A president less ambitious for his university would have dismissed Kirkbride’s idea as too costly and inopportune, in light of the University of Delaware’s many pressing needs. But, something in the young professor’s earnest zeal and in Hullihen’s own hopes for educational progress in an unstable world led him to embrace the concept. The President approached Dr. Joseph Odell, administrator for Service Citizens, to inquire if that organization might help finance such a program. Odell considered the proposal outside his organization’s scope, but he passed Hullihen’s letter on to Pierre du Pont, who read it "with a great deal of interest." Du Pont informed President Hullihen of his "inclination" to support the project if others would do so as well.[12] Hullihen demurred, noting that all of his other funding requests had to be focused on the library building project. "Besides yourself, I know of no one in Delaware who would likely be interested," he concluded.[13]