Edward Kane '40, former DuPont president, gives $1 million gift

Publication Date

Edward Kane graduated from Union in 1940, first in his class, with a chemistry degree that helped ensure his subsequent success. A man who became president of one of the nation’s largest, science-based products companies – DuPont – Kane wants the College to continue offering a topnotch education in chemistry and prospects for careers in science.

That’s why he’s generously donated $1 million to Union’s chemistry program.

Edward Kane

“I wanted to show my gratitude for the way Union helped prepare me for an exciting and satisfying future,” Kane said. “And I wanted to support College initiatives that will supply current and future students with learning opportunities that will prepare them to make lasting contributions to the advancement of chemistry.”

Kane’s gift will provide $600,000 to the biochemistry teaching laboratory and chemistry facilities in the new Wold Center for Science and Engineering. The remaining $400,000 will endow the Edward R. Kane ’40 Fund for Chemistry.

“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. “I hope, by supporting the new Wold Center and the chemistry program, I can help Union continue to do the same for young people today.”

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, Del., and at the nylon plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Throughout the mid-1960s, 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. September of this same year, he was elected to a six-year term as a Union College trustee.

While helping lead his alma mater, Kane was also leading DuPont, having been named president and chief operating officer in 1973. He and company chair Irving Shapiro steered DuPont safely through the 1970s 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. In 1979, the year he retired from DuPont, he was honored with the prestigious Palladium Medal. The 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, worldwide chemical industry and society in general.

Today, he lives in Greenville, Del. with his wife of 63 years, the former Doris Peterson.

“My father has done so much, and in a way, it all started at Union,” said Kane’s daughter, Susan Booth. “I know he’s thrilled to be able to give back to the College. We all are. My sister, Christine Plant, and I are very proud of his accomplishments and the values he exemplified in his work and commitment to his family.”