A retired Greenville executive and philanthropist is turning his attention back to Clemson, where his recent gift to the chemical and biomolecular engineering department is the largest in the department’s history.
William Sturgis ’57 and his wife, Martha Beth, are contributing $600,000 to create a distinguished professorship in the department. They plan to double their contribution in their will.
The faculty member selected for the professorship will be able to use funds generated by an endowment to support graduate and undergraduate students as they do research, learn about entrepreneurship and travel to national meetings to present their research.
In a 37-year career, Sturgis was executive vice president of worldwide packaging operations at specialty chemical company W.R. Grace and president of its North American Cryovac division. Upon retirement in 1997, Sturgis received the Order of the Palmetto, the state of South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, and a commendation from the state House of Representatives.
Sturgis said he and his wife established the professorship because they wanted to do something for chemical engineering at Clemson, where he got his start studying under influential professor Charles E. Littlejohn Jr.
“The quality of the professors really makes the quality of the graduates,” Sturgis said. “If you’ve got the money to attract the top professors, you’re going to attract a lot of people who want to major in that particular area and go on and do well.”
Sturgis, who grew up on a dairy farm in Rock Hill, recalled that his class at Clemson had 41 chemical engineering majors, 12 of whom graduated. He received his Bachelor of Science from Clemson in 1957 and later graduated from the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
As an alumnus, Sturgis returned to Clemson and served as a member of the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences advisory board and as chair of the Clemson University Foundation. He was instrumental in beginning the packaging science program at Clemson and played a key role in steering a $2 million contribution for scholarships from Cryovac.