McMaster family gives $2M for energy research chair

Harold and Helen McMaster
Harold and Helen McMaster

The McMaster family is continuing to invest in the University of Toledo as it carves out a niche as a leader in alternative energy research.

A $2 million gift from the family in honor of the late solar-energy pioneer Harold McMaster will be announced at noon today in the lobby of McMaster Hall.

It will establish the "Harold and Helen McMaster Chair in Photovoltaics" that will draw an experienced researcher in the field to Toledo through an international search.

"I can't think of anything more fitting than a chair in photovoltaics," said Mary Morrison, principal gifts officer for the university. "[Mr. McMaster] really believed in solar energy. He was very forward-thinking."

Members of the McMaster family did not wish to speak to the media about the gift.

Mr. McMaster, who died in 2003 at the age of 87, had more than 100 patents in his name and left a legacy for his equipment that produced tempered safety glass that has no sharp edges when broken.

He founded Solar Cells Inc. that helped form First Solar Inc., which was recognized last year as the largest solar panel manufacturer in the country, and Solar Fields, which formed a joint venture with Q-Cells that resulted in Calyxo USA.

The McMaster chair will continue to strengthen UT's work in photovoltaics and the Toledo area's reputation as an industry leader, said Al Compaan, chairman of UT's department of physics and astronomy.

"It's a recognition of the building strength in photovoltaics," he said. "It's a recognition of a lot of good work that's already going on and the good people who are there, but it's an opportunity to bring in an additional world-class scholar."

The person selected as the chair would be expected to build a strong research program, teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and collaborate with other faculty and industrial scientists and engineers, Mr. Compaan said.

The McMaster chair will be in addition to two existing similar prestigious chairs at UT.

Robert Collins, a UT physics professor, holds the NEG Chair in Silicate and Materials Science, which has an emphasis on photovoltaics.

He also is the co-director of the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization, which is at UT. Photovoltaics is the technology of turning light into electricity.

And in August, Michael Heben will join UT as the Wright Center for Innovation Endowed Chair in Photovoltaics.

He comes to UT from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., where he was a principal scientist and team leader of the Nanostructured Materials Group.

UT also houses the offices of the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio and has a Clean and Alternative Energy Incubation Center that helps start-up businesses in the industry.

The UT Board of Trustees also recently supported the creation of a Center for Advanced and Renewable Energy to further organize its industry efforts.

The McMaster family's generosity to the university has provided for the physics and astronomy building called McMaster Hall, the Harold and Helen McMaster Engineering Library in Palmer Hall, and the annual McMaster Cosmology Colloquium. The McMasters have given to Defiance College, Bowling Green State University, the former Medical College of Ohio, and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

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