Dunn-Edwards Bids Farewell to Leader


Renowned polymer chemist Kenneth N. Edwards, retired CEO of the Dunn-Edwards Corp. and a champion of the coatings industry, died Feb. 20 at his home in Glendale, CA. He was 80.

Mr. Edwards led the company co-founded by his father from 2001 to 2010 and remained a force in coatings chemistry and new technology throughout a career that spanned more than five decades.

But he is perhaps best remembered for his educational legacy, creating opportunities for promising coatings chemists to train and work on the West Coast.

Coating Technology Center

A generation ago, Mr. Edwards and some colleagues began to address a problem long plaguing the industry—the brain drain of young coating chemists from the East Coast who chose to return home after college.

"He recognized a true need for West Coast educational opportunities, and played an instrumental role in establishing premier bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in coatings technology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo," Dunn-Edwards Corp. said in a recent announcement.

Kenneth Edwards Western Coatings Technology Center
Cal Poly

The Kenneth N. Edwards Western Coatings Technology Center will be part of Cal Poly's new $134 million Center for Science and Mathematics.

Eventually, Mr. Edwards' close corporate and personal relationship with the school grew to include plans for what would be known as the Kenneth N. Edwards Western Coatings Technology Center.

The center will be housed in Cal Poly's forthcoming $134 million Center for Science and Mathematics, which is expected to be completed in May as a LEED Gold-certified building. The Coatings Technology Center will be home to the only polymers and coatings program at an American university west of the Mississippi River.

Respected Chemist

Mr. Edwards graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and earned his master’s in chemical and metallurgical engineering from the University of Michigan.

Kenneth Edwards
Dignity Memorial

Mr. Edwards brought a depth of coatings chemistry knowledge to Dunn-Edwards that proved "a perfect complement to his sales-savvy father," the company said.

After college, he worked for several years as a principal chemist in the coatings division of Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH.

Mr. Edwards later joined Dunn-Edwards as the new product R&D director. At the time, his father, Arthur C. Edwards, was sole owner of the Los Angeles-based company founded by Frank "Buddy" Dunn in 1925. Arthur Edwards, a former painting contractor and pigment salesman, formed a partnership with Dunn in 1938.

"As a chemist, Ken brought a depth of knowledge and understanding about the development and improvement of products and was a perfect complement to his sales-savvy father," the company said.  

Dunn-Edwards gained from his contributions, which ranged from early developments in architectural and industrial paint formulations to a vision for developing slurry pigment manufacturing technologies.

CEO and Lecturer

As CEO from 2001 through 2010, Mr. Edwards' "dedication and vision for the company helped guide and position Dunn-Edwards for significant growth," the company said. During his tenure, Dunn-Edwards became employee-owned and opened the world’s first LEED Gold-certified paint manufacturing and distribution facility in Phoenix.

Dunn-Edwards Corp.

Founded in 1925 as a wallpaper store, Dunn-Edwards Corp. had just one person to mix up paint and varnishes when it began producing its own coatings products.

After Mr. Edwards stepped aside as CEO, he remained on the board of directors.

Mr. Edwards remained active outside the company as well. He was a senior lecturer in Organic Coatings and Pigments at the University of Southern California from 1976 to 1980 and was a longtime active member of both the professional chemical fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma and the American Chemical Society.

He also worked for several decades as an independent consultant and researcher, publishing a wide variety of important industry books and papers. He was awarded numerous technology and process patents and received a range of related citations and awards, including the ACS Industrial Innovation Award (2003), the Don Quixote Award for Technology (1998), and the ACS/PMSE Distinguished Service Award (1996).

In lieu of flowers, the Edwards family suggests donations to support the Kenneth N. Edwards Western Coatings Technology Center.

Checks may be made to “Cal Poly Foundation” with a memo line indicating “Ken Edwards Memorial Fund” and mailed to:

Raymond H. Fernando, PhD
Arthur C. Edwards Endowed Chair
Director, Polymers and Coatings Program
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
California Polytechnic State University
1 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407


Tagged categories: American Chemical Society; Architectural coatings; Coating chemistry; Coatings education; Coatings Technology; Dunn-Edwards; Laboratory testing; Wallcovering

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