sealPurdue News

September 24, 1999

America needs manufacturing technology experts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Pride in Purdue's engineering program and concern for industrial America has led an alumnus to donate a half-million dollars to the university.

"To be able to claim I'm a Boilermaker gave me a great advantage in the field of engineering," said William Cordier, a 1949 graduate of the School of Mechanical Engineering, a member of the school's industrial advisory council, and the retired chief executive officer and founder of Cordier Group Holdings Inc. "So it wasn't tough to decide to give back to Purdue."

Cordier and his wife, Gail, however, did find it challenging to decide how to direct the funds. Their decision was made easier when they learned that part of the Purdue engineering program's 21st century strategic plan involves raising the stature and visibility of the engineering graduate programs by doubling the number of graduate fellowships.

The Hudson, Ohio, couple donated $500,000 to establish the William K. and Gail E. Cordier Graduate Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering. The fellowship will support graduate students who will focus some effort to pursue study or research in manufacturing technologies, such as machine design and materials processing. The fellowship's first recipient, Jim Nerone of Lockport, N.Y., is studying plastics engineering.

Why the emphasis on technology relating to manufacturing? Because Cordier has spent his professional life in businesses that create, manufacture and market products, and he said he believes that the declining global competitiveness of some U.S. corporations is the result of fewer engineers at the helm of American industrial firms than in years past. "We want America's manufacturing industry to stay the world's strongest, most broadly based industrial power," Cordier said. "Our gift should encourage the brightest students to continue with their engineering studies through graduate school, rather than pursuing advanced degrees in other fields."

Cordier designed automated box-making machines before beginning a 23-year career with General Electric, where he led the commercialization of a process for diamond synthesis, built the world's first diamond manufacturing facility, and helped guide the business to global prominence as its general manager. Cordier also was a manager in GE's corporate consulting services, working with products ranging from lamps to steam turbines.

Later, as chief executive officer of General Learning Corp., he worked with educational products and services. At B.F. Goodrich, he turned his attention to plastics, chemicals, aerospace products and tires; at C.G. Conn, to musical instruments; at Cordier Group Holdings, to precision machine tools, metal forging and fabricated military hardware.

The Cordiers also are interested in other schools and activities at Purdue and, in conjunction with this gift, contributed an additional $36,000 to the Beering Scholars Program, Intercollegiate Athletics, Purdue Musical Organizations, the Department of Bands and the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Purdue's engineering program is one of the leading engineering schools in the nation and has been one of the largest in the United States for more than half a century. Purdue's Schools of Engineering offer 12 different disciplines: aeronautic and astronautics; agricultural and biological; chemical; civil; construction engineering and management; electrical and computer; industrial; interdisciplinary; material; mechanical; nuclear; and surveying engineering. The first engineering degree from Purdue was granted in 1878.

Sources: William Cordier, (941) 591-3140;

Shari Rodriguez, director of development and alumni relations, School of Mechanical Engineering,
(765) 494-9769;

Writer: Jeanine Smith, (765) 496-3133;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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