Peter Foller: Full Circle

Peter FollerPeter C. Foller kicked-off his career with a mildly stressful, yet necessary, experience we can all relate too – public speaking. It was Foller’s first time presenting his research, an event he still vividly remembers. Foller, then a graduate student, attended an ECS meeting with faculty advisor Charles W. Tobias, where he hoped his presentation would lead him towards networking opportunities, and ideally, a job. Moreover, Foller recalls that ECS meeting presentations were something Professor Tobias expected of students, long after that final handshake in his office followed by that slow turn, eyeglasses lowered, “And now you may call me Charles…”

Foller has long surpassed the initial tribulations and nerves that comes at the start of an early career. He’s since received his Ph.D. in chemistry (with a concentration in electrochemistry) from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979 and is quite proud and taken back by the breadth of his career. In 2010, he opted to retire early from PPG Industries having served 15 years in various Pittsburgh-based R&D leadership capacities culminating in his role as R&D director for PPG’s (then) optical and commodity chemical businesses. As a part of this, for 10 years, Foller led R&D for the photochromic ophthalmic lens internal start-up Transitions Optical, which was sold in 2014 at an enterprise value in excess of $3B. After a varied and international R&D career encompassing chemical synthesis, metal/air batteries, fuel cell electrodes, metals electrowinning, and chlor-alkali technology, Foller returned to his roots in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has since been advising and participating in early stage start-ups clustering in the area of chemical sensing.

Foller has chosen to make a bequest to the education fund at ECS. “ECS was vital to building my network,” says Foller. “The Society helped start my career and later it was how PPG found me. The most influential connections of my career came through the ECS.”

His generosity will have an impact far beyond his lifetime and will help fund fellowships and grants for students, young scientists, and engineers, enabling others to acquire the rich ECS connections he experienced.

Now, Foller’s legacy will extend past his technological contributions and volunteer time with ECS. His planned gift will make a lasting impact on young scientists and engineers in the field of electrochemistry and solid state science. With his gift to ECS, he automatically becomes a member of the Carl Hering Legacy Circle, which recognizes individuals who have included ECS in their estate planning. ECS is extremely grateful for Peter Foller’s philanthropy.


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