“Theory and Practice” … And a Give-back Attitude
Dr. Robert Godfroid ‘87
Dr. Bob Godfroid, a 1987 graduate of Lawrence Technological University with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, says he’s not much into mottos or inspirational quotes, but there is one that’s stuck with him all these years, one he learned at LTU: Theory and Practice. “Since leaving LTU, the whole ‘theory and practice’ thing just continues to ring true.”
This Michigan native who is a now a Texas transplant thought he wanted to be a tradesman in the auto industry because he was very much hands-on and did well in high school industrial arts. Godfroid admits, “I wasn’t very academically inclined.” He attended Schoolcraft Community College to “get my GPA up.” He certainly did that and was admitted to LTU in 1984, at that time thinking he wanted to be an architect. His mother had been the office manager for an architectural firm and introduced him to one of the firm’s principals. That idea vanished quickly as he found very little of the creativity he was seeking in his career … along with a little advice from the architect to choose a different career!
In the meantime, he recalled how much he loved chemistry and science in general. He changed his intention to become a chemist and to do concrete things with it to help people. “I’ve always been a strong chemist, though I’m more design-oriented than theory-oriented,” Godfroid said. “I like the blending of the two paths: theory and practice!”
After graduation from LTU, he accepted a job in quality control for an international company. “I was terribly unsatisfied,” he said. “It was just like accounting, checking off boxes.”
Godfroid wanted to learn more about chemistry. With more education, he felt he could do more in that field. It was onto Ohio State University for a doctorate in inorganic chemistry. Why Ohio State? LTU chemistry professor Jerry Crist went there. “You know,” he said, “I am who I am today because of his influence. Lawrence Tech’s instructors are not just professors but people who help mold your life.
"When you make something that can protect them from a disease or to improve their lives…I never want to stop doing this work. To improve someone’s life, that a driving passion of mine.”
Dr. Bob Godfroid
“LTU was a small university when I graduated in ’87. For example, there were six chemistry students and eight or nine chemistry professors.”
In 1994, with a doctorate in hand, Godfroid went on to Procter & Gamble, a company he said is dedicated to product innovation. He was a product developer and consumer researcher on popular brands such as Swiffer and Febreze. It was really science working to build better things for people. He spent 14 years at Procter & Gamble. He then went to PepsiCo in the Frito-Lay division. At that time, Frito-Lay wanted to become more sustainable in the packaging of its products. In 2011, Godfroid worked on how to make the SunChips bag compostable and other packaging technologies.
It was in 2015 that Godfroid came back to Lawrence Tech. Through an engagement with the College of Architecture and Design, students worked with him on designing packaging that worked in harmony with food. That engagement turned into a course partially funded by PepsiCo. In 2018, he left PepsiCo to start his own consulting firm.
But his legacy lives on in the form of a scholarship in his parents’ name, the Dr. Robert and Susan Godfroid Endowed Scholarship in Honor of His Parents, Pete and Rose Godfroid. Pete and Rose are still alive and living in Farmington Hills, Michigan, near Godfroid’s childhood hometown of Livonia. “It’s our third year of being able to give a student who is studying science or engineering some financial help. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. Seven people lived in a 1,200-square-foot home. My parents helped where they could. Our contract was to get good grades and they’d help me out. I made the dean’s list! After my first full year at Lawrence Tech, the University gave me a full scholarship for my remaining time there.” Godfroid stayed in contact with his professor, mentor, and friend Dr. Jerry Crist until his death in 2014.
Godfroid has 33 patents in his name and has launched seven new consumer products that are intuitive, practical, and useful.
Today, he is vice president of product development with Allied Bioscience in Dallas, which makes anti-microbial coatings that kill viruses on surfaces, among other products. “In addition to COVID-19, MERS, SARS 1, and the Swine Flu, other diseases are coming at us at an accelerating pace,” Godfroid said.
The rest of his family is likewise very busy. His wife, Susan, is a real estate agent in Dallas; son Nick is an entomologist; and daughter Sabrina is heading into the world of public relations.
What does the future hold for Bob Godfroid? “I will continue trying to make people’s lives better! When you make something that can protect them from a disease or improve their lives … I never want to stop doing this work. To improve someone’s life, that is a driving passion of mine.”
What’s Godfroid’s advice for today’s LTU students? “Theory and practice, theory and practice! It’s the time in somebody’s life to seriously take stock of what their passions are and what their skills are and try to make them an integral part of your life. Theory is the technical foundation and practice makes that theory come alive for the good of humanity.”
by Renée Ahee