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Larry R. Marshall

B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1966
Ph.D., Engineering Science and Mechanics, University of Alabama, 1974

At any given time, the chemical company DuPont has some 10 to 15 DuPont Fellows, a very elite corps of DuPont’s 60,000 employees worldwide. From 2004 until his retirement in 2008, Larry Marshall was one of those recognized few for his technical achievements. For him, his accolade of Fellow was awarded because he had a track record of inventions — he holds 14 patents. His work generated huge profits for his company, and he maintained a strong history of working with people.

Marshall, who grew up in Pulaski, Virginia, was the first person in his family to attend and graduate from college. He earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, a subject he selected because of his boyhood interest in the burgeoning space program that was intent on putting a man on the moon by the end of that decade.

Upon graduating, he reported to his new job at Boeing in Huntsville, Ala. Working with this aerospace giant had been his goal, mainly because he was infatuated with its production of the first stage of the Saturn V rocket, used by NASA’s Apollo and Skylab programs from 1967 until 1973.  As the Apollo moon launch of 1969 grew closer, he noticed Boeing was laying off its cadre of engineers. So he dropped back to 30 hours a week at Boeing, and enrolled in graduate school at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He received his master’s in fluids and thermal sciences in 1970, but although he found the space program “electrifying in its intensity,” he made a tough career decision to leave this branch of engineering behind. Subsequently, he returned to Virginia Tech where he started his doctoral program as a teaching assistant in engineering science and mechanics.

As he was finishing his dissertation, a number of job offers came to him. He went on an interview with DuPont, and was impressed by the level of talent it was employing. His family moved to Richmond, Va., in 1974 where DuPont maintained a key facility. The DuPont executives soon called upon him to see how fast he might be able to produce its product called Tyvek. Dr. Marshall figured out how to scale up the process, and reveals that since 1983 DuPont has been using his process. After 34 years with the company, Dr. Marshall retired in 2008, and started his own consulting business. Dr. Marshall soon teamed with venture capitalists interested in nanotechnology. With their support he soon started Verdex Technologies of Richmond, Va., and now serves as its chief executive officer.

He has already given back to the University many times over, starting the Richmond office of DuPont’s co-op program with Virginia Tech in the 1980s. He helped found the advisory board for the department of engineering science and mechanics. He also served on the College of Engineering’s Advisory Board, and worked specifically on its marketing committee. Among his many contributions was his personal effort around the turn of this century to help improve the recruitment and graduation of Ph.D.s in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering.