Mr. Irénée du Pont Jr., who embodied the vision and mission of Wilmington University, passed away on Jan. 16, 2023. He was 103.
To say that Mr. du Pont was dedicated to the mission and vision of Wilmington University would understate his immense impact on the institution.
“He was a guiding light,” says Wilmington University President Dr. LaVerne Harmon. “Mr. du Pont was a man of integrity who believed that status or background should never limit educational opportunities for anyone, and he was steadfast in his support. He was such a kindhearted person, and his leadership inspired us all.”
Mr. du Pont became a member of the University’s Board of Trustees in 1971, then served as chairman from 1984 to 2013 and remained on the board until his passing. Mr. du Pont never missed a board meeting during his time as chairman and was always an active participant.
In 1970, then-Wilmington College offered seven degree programs. Between 1970 and 1972, enrollment grew from 310 to 630. Today, Wilmington University serves more than 20,000 students and offers over 200 degree programs. “Mr. du Pont witnessed this growth during his 52 years on the board and was there every step of the way,” says Dr. Harmon.
It was Mr. du Pont who said, “At Wilmington University, we put teachers who want to teach in front of students who want to learn,” a declaration quoted by many.
“He felt that education was the key to success, and so many lives were changed because he believed in providing opportunity and access to all who sought a college education,” says Dr. Harmon. “Mr. du Pont was always excited to attend commencement, and it gave him great joy to witness students celebrating their accomplishments and achieving their goals of earning college degrees. He also loved interacting with student speakers before introducing them during commencement ceremonies and was genuinely interested in hearing their stories.”
“His insistence on fairness and equality was the foundation for the University’s mission,” adds Dr. Harmon. “Mr. du Pont’s leadership inspired how we treat students and each other. As a result, we are committed to maintaining a culture of understanding and respect. He not only advocated for those values; Mr. du Pont lived them.”
In his obituary, Mr. du Pont’s family stated that contributions could be sent to Wilmington University in lieu of flowers. Those contributions will go directly toward the University’s student scholarship fund in Mr. du Pont’s honor.
“I think this was a way for Mr. du Pont’s family to express how much the University meant to him and that he would want to provide opportunities for our students even after his passing,” says Dr. Harmon.
Above all, says Dr. Harmon, “Mr. du Pont was a dear friend to many of us at the University. He was selfless, and he loved life. He was intelligent yet humble, and he never wanted to be in the spotlight. Mr. du Pont always shared his words of wisdom, and I will be forever grateful for his support and kindness.”