New Search

Edgar S. Woolard, Jr.

  • Born: April 15, 1934, Washington, North Carolina

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0182
Interview Date: June 10, 1999
Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Interviewer: James G. Traynham
No. of pages: 39
Sponsor: Society of Chemical Industry
Society of Chemical Industry

  Abstract of Interview

Edgar Woolard begins the interview with a description of his family and childhood years in Washington, North Carolina. Woolard's parents encouraged him to excel in both academic and social environments. As a high-school student, Woolard held an interest in mathematics. After graduation, Woolard enrolled in North Carolina State University as a nuclear engineering major. Woolard enjoyed college life and was involved in several extra-curricular activities, including serving as house manager for his fraternity. In his junior year, he switched his major to industrial engineering and received his B.S. in this field in 1956. Shortly after graduating from NC State, Woolard married his junior-high-school sweetheart and accepted a position at Alcoa in Maryville, Tennessee. Woolard left Alcoa after one year to serve a six-month term in the U.S. Army. Upon his return, he was offered a job at DuPont in industrial engineering. After two years, he was promoted into management as a supervisor, a position that Woolard relished. He quickly rose through the ranks at DuPont, gaining valuable learning experiences from each promotion. Woolard entered DuPont's Planning Division in 1976, where he oversaw many breakthroughs in DuPont polymers, especially Dacron production. Throughout his career, Woolard helped shape DuPont into a more streamlined and environmentally friendly company. In the late 1970s, DuPont responded to a spike in oil prices and high inflation by reducing senior management and combining departments. In 1983, under DuPont's new system, Woolard was given responsibility for three departments: Agricultural Chemicals Division, Medical Division, and Photo Products Division. He served in that capacity for three years before becoming Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. Woolard became CEO in 1987 and worked to both streamline and evenly downsize DuPont for the good of the company. Although this period was difficult, his efforts proved successful for both DuPont and its employees. For his earnest reorganization of DuPont, Woolard received the Chemical Industry Medal in 1998. Woolard concluded the interview with a discussion of DuPont's major achievements during his career, retirement, and thoughts on his family.


1956 B.S., Industrial Engineering, North Carolina State University

  Professional Experience

Alcoa, Inc.

1956 - 1957 Industrial Engineering

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1957 - 1959 Industrial Engineer

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1959 - 1962 Group Supervisor, industrial engineering

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1962 - 1964 Supervisor, manufacturing section

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1964 - 1965 Planning Supervisor

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1965 - 1966 Staff Assistant to Production Manager

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1966 - 1969 Production Supervisor

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1969 - 1970 Engineering Supervisor

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1970 - 1971 Assistant Plant Manager

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1971 - 1973 Plant Manager

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1973 - 1975 Director, Product Marketing Division

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1975 - 1976 Managing Director, Textile Marketing Division

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1976 - 1977 Manager, Corporate Planning

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1977 - 1978 General Director, Products and Planning Department

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1978 - 1981 General Manager, Textile Fibers

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1981 - 1983 Vice President

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1983 - 1985 Executive Vice President

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1985 - 1987 Vice Chairman

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1987 - 1989 President and Chief Operating Officer

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1989 - 1996 Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1996 - 1998 Chairman


1995 International Palladium Medal, Society of Chemical Industry
1998 Chemical Industry Medal, Society of Chemical Industry

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Years 1

Growing up in Washington, North Carolina. Influence of parents. Interest in mathematics. Decision to attend North Carolina State University. Majoring in nuclear engineering. Enjoying college life. Switching major to industrial engineering. Graduation from college.

Career Beginnings 6

Marriage. Moving to Maryville, Tennessee. Employment with Alcoa. Leaving Alcoa for military service. Interviewing at DuPont's new plant in North Carolina. Accepting position with DuPont in industrial engineering. Moving into management.

DuPont 11

Working shift operations. Managing people with good communication. Planning Department. Dacron® production plant. Working with scientists. Using waste materials to make products. Polyesters. Work ethic at DuPont.

Management 19

Competition. Coping with inflation. Transfer into Marketing. OPEC oil crisis. David Barnes. Reorganization. Textile Fibers Department. Streamlining departments. Management changes. Reduction of employees and management. Success of continuous improvement. New joint-ventures and innovations. Future of innovation at DuPont.

Conclusion 30

DuPont poised for future. Winning Chemical Industry Medal. Importance of teamwork and good leadership. Setting goals. Family.

Index 36

  About the Interviewer

James G. Traynham

James G. Traynham is a professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Northwestern University. He joined Louisiana State University in 1953 and served as chemistry department chairperson from 1968 to 1973. He was chairman of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1988 and is currently councilor of the Baton Rouge section of the American Chemical Society. He was a member of the American Chemical Society’s Joint-Board Council on Chemistry and Public Affairs, as well as a member of the Society’s Committees on Science, Chemical Education, and Organic Chemistry Nomenclature. He has written over 90 publications, including a book on organic nomenclature and a book on the history of organic chemistry.

Hear It Firsthand

The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@

Annual Report

Annual Report
Take a look back at a year of preservation, research, and outreach in CHF’s annual report to supporters.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.