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Alumni Magazine

Scholarship, professorship honor late Wolfspeed founder

John Palmour, second from right, speaks during a panel discussion at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on NC State's Centennial Campus in October 2022.
John Palmour, second from right, speaks during a panel discussion at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on NC State"s Centennial Campus in October 2022.

When Cree, Inc. was started, each of the six founders had a role. John Palmour’s was to work on advanced devices.

Palmour stayed involved with Cree, now Wolfspeed, as long as any of the founders. When he passed away in November 2022 at the age of 62, he was serving as the company’s chief technology officer and had been a driving force behind Cree’s transition from an LED lighting manufacturer to a silicon carbide power semiconductor company.

“This was JP’s baby,” said John Edmond, a fellow co-founder of Cree and NC State engineering alumnus.“It’s sad to lose such a great friend, but also to have him not see where this thing is going. He was the heart and soul of that business.”

Wolfspeed’s new manufacturing facility under construction in Chatham County will be named the John Palmour Manufacturing Center for Silicon Carbide. The company has also honored Palmour’s legacy while investing in future leaders and discoveries and adding to the Palmour family’s legacy of philanthropy at NC State. A gift to the University by the company has established the John Palmour Distinguished Professorship in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) as well as the Wolfspeed Endowed Scholarship in Memory of Dr. John Palmour. The scholarship will provide need-based support for undergraduates in MSE, where Palmour earned his bachelor’s degree (1982) and Ph.D. (1988).

Palmour and his wife, Nancy Palmour, a 1985 alumna of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, had previously established the Palmour Family College of Engineering Fellowship Endowment and the Palmour Family Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship Endowment for engineering students. They also have been generous supporters of the University’s Greatest Needs Fund and the Wolfpack Club’s Student-Athlete ImPack Program.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Palmour was a strong advocate for research collaborations between industry, faculty members and students. He played a key role in helping bring the PowerAmerica research center to NC State, served two terms on the University’s Board of Visitors and participated in activities such as a 2022 panel discussion about the College of Engineering’s role in driving the state’s economy, held at James B. Hunt Jr. Library.

Palmour was named a Distinguished Engineering Alumnus by the College of Engineering in 2009. In 2015, he was elected to the inaugural class of the MSE’s Hall of Fame, along with his father, Hayne Palmour III, a 37-year professor of ceramic engineering at the University and an NC State alumnus himself.