William B. White
For his ability to combine engineering and leadership expertise to build new global businesses in the chemical industry
William White knows global engineering. During his 34-year career with DuPont he learned firsthand that doing international business and research in a "science company" is more than a transaction–it is global engagement with clear impact. He's been a longtime champion of what the National Academy of Engineering and Purdue have now made a clear priority–preparing future engineers for the interconnected world of the 21st century.
"Research is a key to the discovery that is required to help society achieve a better future. Working together, we can seek to find the solutions to feed our growing global population, tap our vast renewable resources for energy and materials, provide safer and more secure lives for people, and explore new worlds," White says.
White, who retired from DuPont in 2008, was a leader in numerous international business units with a presence in more than 70 countries during the course of his career. These included DuPont Titanium Technologies, DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise, and DuPont Safety Resources. He was appointed director of Business Improvement at the company's headquarters in Wilmington, Del., before being promoted in 2006 to president of DuPont Canada.
During his career, White oversaw research and development; and manufacturing and marketing for product segments such as cellophane, explosives, Freon, Ti02, and cyanides. He was also involved with other projects such as creation of a mineral exploration venture in Senegal, providing corporate leadership in enhancing the effectiveness of management processes, and championing the creation of break-out growth opportunities in several business sectors. In his capacity as business director for DuPont Specialty Chemicals, White managed a diverse portfolio of industrial and specialty chemical businesses, one of the largest, by total product volume, groupings in the DuPont company.
White credits his Purdue engineering education with having given him the fundamentals of problem solving and laying the foundation on which he built his career. "From my Purdue experience, I had the confidence to work effectively on any problem. I had a wide array of assignments in all aspects of a global company. Having fun solving new problems was the foundation for continuous improvement to build and continually sustain competitive advantage," he says.
As a member and chairman of the School of Mechanical Engineering's Advisory Council, White has been able to work for what he views as a critical relationship between industry and academe, and to nurture tomorrow's engineers.
"Leading universities, like Purdue, play a valuable role as research partners for businesses. By working together, we amplify each other's efforts as we explore solutions, including those that will address some of the world's most pressing needs," he says.
"The results of our joint efforts to deliver solutions create jobs and build economies. They also lead to new insights that can be shared within the academic community to advance our universal body of knowledge. Sustainable development to meet the needs of a growing global population is the fundamental driver of the grand challenges we face today. There are many opportunities for engineers to solve our most important problems and for businesses to deliver the solutions and meet those market needs."
BSME '74, Purdue University