Union Notables

Edward R. Kane    class of 1940


Edward R. Kane, courtesy of the Kane family

Edward Kane graduated first in his class from Union College in 1940.  His degree in chemistry helped ensure his subsequent success, which included becoming president of one of the nation’s largest, science-based products companies: DuPont.

“My Union experience and education gave me the skills I needed to be an innovative thinker and doer, and a lifelong learner, who could thrive in the competitive, challenging environment of DuPont,” said Kane, who received a Steinmetz Scholarship and played varsity tennis as a student.  After Commencement, Kane left his hometown of Schenectady and enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1943. He joined DuPont the same year as a research chemist in the nylon section of the textile fibers department. He rose quickly through the ranks, taking on more responsibility and earning a reputation as a hard-working and fair manager who inspired others to do their best.

During the early 1950s, Kane supervised research and development of Fiber V (Dacron) in Seaford, Delaware, and at the nylon plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dacron is a polyester fiber with far-reaching uses and importance due to its extreme strength, resistance to stretching, and resistance to bleaching or abrasion.  Throughout the mid-1960's, he worked to develop new textile fibers and improved processes for existing products. In 1967, he became general manager of DuPont’s industrial and biochemicals department. In 1969, Kane was promoted to vice president and became a member of the executive committee. By January 1972, he was senior vice president. In September of this same year, he was elected to a six-year term as a Union College trustee.

Named president and chief operating officer of DuPont in 1973, Kane and company chairman Irving Shapiro steered DuPont safely through the 1970's energy crisis. Together, they refocused the company on non-petroleum products, including electronics, agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals. This assured DuPont’s continued success in an increasingly competitive global market.

Kane is a past member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Mr. Kane has served as the head of the Mechanical Engineering Visiting Committee for MIT and as a member of the Corporation Development Committee for MIT. Mr. Kane has also served as trustee for MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, and is Board Chairman Emeriti for the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. In 1979, the year he retired from DuPont, he was honored with the prestigious Palladium Medal. This distinguished international award, given by the American Section of Societe de Chimie Industrielle, was presented to Kane for his lifelong contributions to the furtherance of understanding and cooperation within the chemical professions, the worldwide chemical industry, and society in general.

Since retiring, Kane has spent a lot of time on the tennis courts, and he and his wife Doris have traveled extensively around the world, often with the MIT Alumni travel program. Today, he and Doris live in Greenville, Delaware.