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May 2013

Thomas Sharpe Wilmeth - Doctor of Engineering Information Literacy

Thomas Sharpe Wilmeth

Thomas Sharpe Wilmeth
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Thomas S. Wilmeth has been recognized by Purdue University for his exemplary understanding and appreciation for the need to use published research outside of academe to advance industrial methods and to create new engineering processes and technological applications within his industry that could address global challenges.  That commitment also extends to his support for the learning of students at Purdue and the research of Purdue faculty. 

Mr. Thomas Wilmeth's philosophy is "to develop the ability to train and teach oneself to learn." He describes himself as "someone who always wanted to do something." 

Wilmeth was born October 2, 1913 in Indianapolis. During World War I, his father served in Europe in the U.S. Army infantry.  During that time, Wilmeth's grandmother helped his mother care for him. Both women were math teachers and looked after his education before he started school. As a result, he was able to skip three grades and graduated from Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis at age 15. 

Wilmeth is a lifelong entrepreneur. His first business, at age 10, was selling hot-roasted peanuts. At 12, he was marketing strawberries, and at 15, he opened his own radio-repair business. 

 At 16, he enrolled at Purdue University.   During his senior year, he was the business manager of the Purdue yearbook, Debris, earning $1,100 for his share of the profits. While at Purdue, Wilmeth was a member of Alpha Chi Rho, Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu. He graduated in 1935 magna cum laude at age 21 with a degree in electrical engineering.

In 1949, Wilmeth and his younger brother, Harvey, also a Purdue graduate, started Scot Industries Inc., in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   The first 10 years were difficult, and insolvency was often near. He went through 10 different businesses before finding one that worked. 

In the late 1950s, Wilmeth entered the honing business. His Purdue engineering and design skills allowed the company to produce better and less expensive products. Customers wanted a company with new ideas, high quality products and competitive costs. Wilmeth listened to customer problems and invented solutions. 

Over the past 45 years, Wilmeth and his son, Steven, have built an international business with 11 plants. Scot Industries has a worldwide reputation for quality and technological leadership in the specialty tubing and bar business. Scot Industries will open its newest facility in Auburn, Ind., in 2013. 

He has been a long-time supporter through his philanthropy of the goals of the Purdue University Libraries and attributes his success to the quality education he received from his mother and grandmother, the Indianapolis public schools, and Purdue University. Wilmeth's philanthropy is intended to offer similar opportunities to others through the resources and services of the Purdue University Libraries. 

At 99, Wilmeth serves as chairman of Scot Industries and goes to work every day excited about new technologies, new ideas, new designs, and new opportunities. He exemplifies the attributes a Purdue engineer is known and recognized for:  problem solving through creativity, ingenuity, and industry coupled with entrepreneurship.  

"He hasn't stopped thinking, and he hasn't retired."