SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- An inspiring story of educational opportunity leading to lifelong achievement was part of Friday’s dedication of the Edward Donley Residence Hall on the campus of Lawrence Technological University.
Members of the Donley family were on hand for the dedication of the residence hall – built in 2002 – to honor of Donley’s many contributions to the University since he graduated in 1943 with a Bachelor of Engineering degree.
Donley’s son, John, told those assembled that his father grew up on a Macomb County farm, and graduated in 1939 from a high school that was not accredited. He said his father wrote letters to dozens of colleges and universities – but only E. George Lawrence, who led what was then the Lawrence Institute of Technology from 1934 to 1964, responded with an offer of a scholarship. Edward Donley had to keep a B+ grade point average to keep that scholarship, which he did, at great effort, John Donley said.
John Donley said going to Lawrence Tech “was the second most important thing in my dad’s life … my dad would tell you the most important was meeting my mother. But going to Lawrence Tech changed his life, changed our whole family’s lives.”
After graduation, Donley became one of the first 12 employees of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., then based in Detroit, starting as a draftsman. After a string of promotions through the 1940s and ’50s, he became president in 1966, CEO in 1973 and chairman in 1978. He retired from his executive duties in 1986 and from the board in 1992. Today, Air Products has 20,000 employees and annual revenue of nearly $10 billion. It is based in Allentown, Pa.
Besides his business interests, Donley has also long been active in efforts to improve education, serving on numerous boards dedicated to teacher training and certification. He served as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1986, and was also chairman of the chamber’s Center for Workforce Preparation and Quality Education from 1989 to 1993.
He has also long been active at LTU as a board member. His family’s donations to the University, both personally and through company matching, top $7.6 million.
What is now Donley Hall is home to more than 300 LTU students, who live in spacious one-bedroom apartments with complete kitchens and bathrooms.