David H. Li

David H. Li

Chief Executive Officer, President and Board Member, CMC Materials
BS ChE 1995

For his global leadership growing shareholder value in the semiconductor, specialty material, energy, chemical, and technology sectors, helping to solve the world’s great technical challenges.

David has two pieces of advice for up-and-coming professionals.

First, spend at least 20 percent of your time networking with people who have achieved excellence in areas you aspire towards. As the saying goes, “iron sharpens iron” so your ability to increase your network and learn from others will really accelerate your learning curve throughout life,” Li explained. One example I always suggest, is to try and schedule 15-20 minutes with your company’s CEO, which Li says is “a great way to share perspectives about the company and put yourself on the radar of senior management. Almost every CEO I know would love to hear from and get to know bright young leaders.

Second, never stop learning. This is a principle that was instilled in me by my parents who have been role models for my entire life. Be intentional about your time and how much you are committing to improving yourself. With all of the ubiquitous technology available today, you can easily learn from world-renowned experts in almost any field through podcasts, online seminars, and e-books.

Li worked for more than two decades for Cabot Microelectronics Corporation (CMC), a leading global supplier of specialty materials focused on advanced semiconductors and energy industries. Early on after joining the company, he was identified as a future executive and was placed in various leadership roles to assist CMC in becoming a publicly listed company and firmly establishing itself as an industry leader for semiconductor materials. During his tenure, Li streamlined upper management, revamped the company’s culture, drove the acquisition of two companies, and positioned CMC as a top supplier to companies like Samsung, Intel and TSMC. As a result, during his 8 year tenure as CEO, Li was able to drive record financial, organizational, and shareholder performance. Before assuming CMC’s top spot, he was vice president of the company’s Asia Pacific Region for eight years and holds a sense of pride for leading cultural change within the company.

“By taking an intentional approach toward understanding, measuring, modeling, and communicating change, we were able to measurably and positively change our company culture, which enabled us to unlock growth, achieve greater employee and customer satisfaction, and enhance shareholder value.”

Li retired as president, CEO, and board member of CMC Materials in 2022 after the company accepted a friendly $6.5 billion buy-out offer from Entegris Corporation, representing approximately a four-fold return to shareholders over Li’s eight-year term in this role. At the time of Li’s retirement, CMC reported a revenue of $1.2 billion, operating profit of more than 30 percent, and 2,000+ employees.

Now a permanent resident of Singapore, Li sits on the board of directors at Coorstek (an advanced ceramics technology company) and is a limited partner at Novotellus (a technology based private equity fund). He also serves on the portfolio committee of A*STAR, a Temasek-backed fund focused on helping the next generation of start-ups thrive in Singapore. At Purdue, he serves as a visiting scholar and guest lecturer to enhance students’ preparation for careers in semiconductor manufacturing and beyond.  He was honored with Purdue’s Outstanding Chemical Engineer Award in 2017.

Li is the founder and chairman of the Li Family Charitable Foundation. In 2019, he and his wife, Sophia Li, provided a major gift for scholarships to the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering. In addition, Li provides guidance and mentoring for Asian American students at Purdue and other organizations and institutions who are interested in leadership and managerial careers in industry. Li is also working on a book project to share knowledge and wisdom from the most accomplished Asian American leaders to inspire the next generation.

“During my time at Purdue, I felt energized to be in such a rich learning environment, which I have sought to cultivate in the years since my graduation,” Li shared. “Whether it was taking on further formal education like an MBA, or leading cultural change at my company, I have always tried to have a humble and learning mindset, which has served me well to this day. I am truly grateful for my time at Purdue and know that it was a huge factor in my success.” 

Career Highlights

2022-present Founder and Chairman, Li Family Charitable Foundation
2022-present Portfolio Committee, Temasek A*STAR
2015-2022 Chief Executive Officer, President and Board Member, CMC Materials 
2006-2015 Vice President, Asia Pacific Region, CMC Materials
1997-2006 Various senior management positions including: Engineering, Sourcing, Investor Relations, Corporate Development, General Manager, CMC Materials
1995-1997 Various Engineering and Marketing Roles at UOP


1995 BS Chemical Engineering, Purdue University
2003 MBA, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University