James B. Porter, Jr.

The CII Executive Committee selected James B. Porter, Jr., as the eighteenth recipient of the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence. He joins two other DuPont leaders in receiving this honor – Charles D. Brown (1986) and Robert H. Miller (1989).

Engineer, business executive, and community leader, Jim Porter serves as the Vice President for Safety, Health & Environment and Engineering at DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware. Throughout his 38-year career, Jim has demonstrated leadership in leveraging the power of people, technology, and innovation to find sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life for people around the world.

Ever since his childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, Jim has been seeking answers to questions about how things work and how to make them work better.

Today, he focuses on taking cutting-edge products from the laboratory to the market and to solutions that combine economic, social, and environmental advantages.

A high school chemistry class broadened his horizons, leading him to a career in science. His teacher, Charles Shinlever, was the single most important influence in shaping the direction of his education and career.

When Jim expressed interest in majoring in chemistry in college, however, Shinlever cautioned that without a Ph.D. his career would consist of washing test tubes, not discovering new materials.

His mentor instead suggested chemical engineering, a field that provides ongoing opportunities to find solutions, develop processes, and turn discoveries into practical, marketable realities. Shinlever was later named Tennessee teacher of the year – to the delight of Jim.

Soon after Jim received his chemical engineering degree from the University of Tennessee, he joined DuPont. His first assignment was in the field engineering program, which is designed to show young engineers the breadth and depth of engineering and other career opportunities at the company before they commit to a career path. Jim left for a two-year stint in the United States Army, however, after just 90 days. He spent one year in South Vietnam; the next, he was involved in civil engineering projects in the U.S.

When he returned to DuPont, he was transferred to a field engineer position at the textile fibers plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

In 1970, Jim joined the Engineering Design Division in Wilmington, where his work led directly to construction projects. He particularly enjoyed construction because he could measure progress every day in contrast to the time needed to make observable progress in R&D work at the lab. DuPont was then engaged in a program of $3 to $4 billion per year on capital projects. Its cost effectiveness studies and programs to increase efficiency of construction led to innovative construction strategies. This concentration on improvement made the company a leader in the construction industry.

In 1979, Jim headed responsibility for a grass roots project: design and construction of a plant to produce an intermediate required for DuPont Kevlar® brand fiber. His knowledge of chemical engineering contributed to construction efficiency because he understood how a process would behave in the pipes and equipment. Construction involves all the skills needed to succeed in business management: managing people, logistics, contracts, and purchasing. Understanding the problems, issues, and challenges of the Kevlar® business was key preparation for leadership.

During the 1980s, Jim’s assignments expanded his knowledge and experiences in business methods and investments. In 1990, he was named director of Engineering Operations. Two years later, he became director of operations for the Fluoroproducts business. He became vice president of Engineering in 1996, vice president of Engineering and Operations in 1999, and vice president of Safety, Health & Environment and Engineering earlier this year.

At DuPont and as a leader in construction industry organizations, Jim pursues efficiencies that increase competitiveness. He is always looking for innovations that drive improvements in capital projects. DuPont continues to have a vested interest in construction because owners have to maintain high standards of excellence and efficiency. DuPont CEO, Chad Holliday, will not sign off on a project unless Jim has, and Jim will not sign off unless CII Best Practices are in place.

In addition to excellence in construction, Jim puts five “zero initiatives” into every project:

  • No on-the-job injuries
  • No off-the-job injuries
  • No environmental compromises
  • No people-related inequities
  • No ethical behavior compromises
 

During Jim’s eight years as vice president of Engineering, his organization’s performance in all areas has improved by orders of magnitude and continues on that track today. This focus ensures that zero unwanted core value-related incidents will become day-to-day realities in his business.

Not only is he an executive with multiple responsibilities, but Jim also devotes time to the Construction Industry Institute, the National Academy of Construction, FIATECH, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Fieldbus Foundation, the National Society of Professional Engineering, and the National Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Task Force.

Jim contributes to the vibrancy of the community through his participation as head of the DuPont United Way campaign and the Delaware United Negro College Fund. He continues to mobilize resources that help children, youth, and the disadvantaged succeed by strengthening families, supporting self-sufficiency, protecting neighborhoods, and solving critical social problems. He is a member of the boards of advisors for the University of Tennessee College of Engineering and the Wilmington, Delaware, campus of Drexel University. He also serves on the board of directors of the Delaware Technical and Community College Foundation.

Jim’s wife, Deborah Grubbe, also a chemical engineer, is corporate director for DuPont Safety, Health & Environment. His daughter, Alyson, has received her degree in special education from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, near their family home. Both 82 years old, his parents still live in Knoxville, where his father was a firefighter. His brother is the president and CEO of the Back School of Atlanta.

CII is proud to honor Jim Porter with its highest recognition – the Carroll H. Dunn Award of Excellence. His contributions to the industry through leadership, experience, and knowledge have elevated him to a place that fellow DuPont recipient, the late Robert Miller, described as “where eagles soar.” Congratulations to Jim Porter.