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

Education has been of primary importance to du Ponts for a very long time. It lay at the heart of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours’s aspirations for his family and for the advancement of humankind. One of his first tasks upon reaching America in 1800 was to write a treatise on education at the request of his friend, Vice President Thomas Jefferson. In this work, entitled National Education in the United States of America,[1] du Pont de Nemours laid out a comprehensive plan for the development of public schools and for the establishment of a national university, which he envisioned as a "palace of science," to be located in the new capital of Washington, D.C.

As befitted the Enlightenment leader that he was, du Pont devised an educational program that stressed freedom of enquiry and of teaching methods. His proposed curriculum emphasized the mastery of languages, of mathematics, and of the sciences "that the world may not be an unknown country."[2] He urged state and national governments to provide scholarships for poor but able students and to pay faculty members well. He believed that the United States could best develop its economy, encourage cultural enlightenment, and become a well-governed, democratic country if it attracted the world’s finest scholars to come to America to teach its young people.

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 need think only of du Pont de Nemours’s namesake, his great-great-grandson Pierre S. du Pont, whose tireless and generous efforts transformed the State of Delaware’s shamefully backward public-school system during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. It is also noteworthy that the great company that du Pont de Nemours’s younger son, Eleuthère Irenéé, created has been sustained to this day through its commitment to scientific research. Many of America’s great families have created or supported institutions of higher education. This also has been true for the du Ponts, who have been generous benefactors to the universities and colleges that they attended. The institution that has been most transformed by du Pont philanthropy and has been the focus of attention from the greatest number of family members is the University of Delaware.

This book provides a brief account of the relationship that has developed over many years between the du Pont family and the University of Delaware. It is not an inclusive narrative. So many du Ponts have made gifts to the University over such a long period of time that to mention them all would require a lengthy catalog. The emphasis here will be on the most significant contributions, those that have had the greatest impact on shaping the evolution of the institution. Today, the University of Delaware is a medium-sized university with an undergraduate population of 15,000 students, a graduate population of 3,000, and a highly selective full-time faculty of nearly 1,000. Although service to Delawareans is its first duty, the University also draws a large number of students from the mid-Atlantic region, as well as from the other states and from countries around the world. In addition to meeting the needs of students on the main campus in Newark, the University offers degree programs and continuing education courses in various locations around the state and maintains a major presence in Lewes, Delaware, on the Hugh R. Sharp, Jr., Campus, home of the College of Marine Studies. By most standards, the University of Delaware is a big operation. Its 420 buildings occupy over 2,600 acres of land. Its library system includes well over 2,000,000 volumes. It provides instruction in 120 major fields. But, these statistics hardly begin to describe the complexity of a modern university with its research centers, cultural programming, Honors Program, and computerized information networking. Nor can statistics do justice to the pride that students, alumni, staff, and friends take in the beauty of the campus, especially the central Mall with its dignified Georgian buildings and overarching elms. The University, a land-grant, sea-grant, and urban-grant institution, is the premier public university in Delaware. Though it serves public purposes and is supported in part by the State of Delaware, it is governed by a largely private Board of Trustees. The University’s private-public status is a significant factor in its ability to provide programs of excellence at relatively low tuition cost. This felicitous combination accounts for the University’s rank among the top twenty-five public institutions in the nation and as a "best buy" for aspiring but economy-minded students and their families.

Descendants of Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours have played significant roles in making the University of Delaware what it is today. We at the University salute members of the du Pont family on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of their emigration to the United States, and we most heartily thank them for the many benefactions that are the subject of the narrative that follows