1940 Walter S. Carpenter Jr.
Walter S. Carpenter Jr. (1888-1976) served DuPont for eight decades. While a student at Cornell University, Carpenter learned applied engineering in DuPont’s summer programs at Gibbstown and Carney’s Point, N.J. In 1909, during the fall of his senior year, he quit school to manage DuPont’s Chilean nitrate interests. In 1911 he became assistant to older brother R.R.M. Carpenter in the fledgling Development Department. There, and later as vice president in charge of development, Carpenter helped guide DuPont’s early diversification into celluloid and dyes.
During World War I, Carpenter became a member of the War Executive Committee and when Pierre du Pont re-staffed the Executive Committee with a group of younger executives in 1919, Carpenter, 31, was the youngest. Two years later he became treasurer of DuPont, and in 1927 he was appointed to the Board of Directors of General Motors (GM), a position he held until 1959.
During the Great Depression, Carpenter pushed the company’s leaders to accept and adapt to increased government regulation of corporate affairs, although he was overruled by the du Ponts. Upon Lammot du Pont’s departure in 1940, Carpenter took over the presidency, becoming only the second non-family member to hold the position up to that time. Carpenter soon faced the challenge of World War II, and under his leadership, DuPont supplied explosives and a host of other products to the war effort. He also guided DuPont’s heavy involvement in perhaps the most ambitious research and development undertaking in history, the Manhattan Project. Carpenter stepped down as president in 1948, but continued to serve as chairman of DuPont’s Board of Directors until 1962. He was appointed honorary chairman that same year, a position he held until 1974.