West Virginia University’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences recently received three gifts totaling more than $2.5 million in memory of C. Eugene Bennett, an alumnus and successful chemist, entrepreneur and real estate developer.
The gifts, which will benefit the Department of Chemistry, the Eberly College and WVU Libraries, were made by Bennett’s wife of 43 years, Edna Bennett Pierce, of Wilmington, Del.
The Bennetts have been generous supporters of WVU ’s chemistry program. In 1994 they endowed, with a gift of $1.6 million, the C. Eugene Bennett Chair of Chemistry and the Careers for Chemists Program, which introduces students to the diversity of careers available to chemistry majors.
The most recent gifts will be used to enhance programming and graduate student support in the Department of Chemistry and the Eberly College, and increase chemistry holdings in University Libraries. The gifts have created the Bennett Chemistry Program Enhancement Fund and the C. Eugene Bennett Fellowships in the Department of Chemistry and the C. Eugene Bennett Academic Enrichment Fund in the Eberly College. The gifts also will enhance the chemistry publications collection and fund the establishment of the Bennett Periodicals Department in the new Wise Library.
“These extraordinary gifts will benefit generations of students and faculty members at WVU ,”said M. Duane Nellis, dean of the Eberly College.”Supporters like the Bennetts are rare but so important to WVU and higher education in West Virginia. Their gifts have provided
us with the opportunity to retain world-class faculty members and attract highly-gifted students to the chemistry program.”
Edna Bennett Pierce has pledged an additional $1.5 million to increase the enhancement fund in the chemistry department, the library endowment and to complete the Bennett Periodicals
Department. The Bennett Periodicals Department will house unbound periodicals for the physical science disciplines. The current Physical Sciences Library, which mainly consists of chemistry materials, will be consolidated into the new facility.
C. Eugene Bennett earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and master’s degree in organic chemistry at WVU in 1949 and 1951 respectively. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in analytic chemistry at the University of Michigan in 1954, but he previously did some graduate work at Penn State, where he met Edna Peterson. They married in 1953.
Bennett served two years as a research chemist for the U.S. Air Force and then was hired by E.I. duPont de Nemours&Co. Inc., in Wilmington, Del. In 1959, Bennett and two colleagues formed F&M Scientific Corp., which produced scientific instruments in the U.S. and Europe. The company became a division of Hewlett Packard Co. in 1965, and Bennett left the company in 1968 to pursue other interests. Those interests included earning an M.B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, developing residential real estate, owning a private country club and helping to raise his six children. He died in 1996 at the age of 67.
Edna Bennett Pierce was a member of the first class of 500 women admitted to Penn State following World War II. She graduated in 1953 with a degree in child development.
The Bennett gifts were made to the WVU Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit organization, which is the designated agency to receive and administer gifts from private individuals and organizations for the benefit of WVU .