Donor Spotlight: Peter C. Foller

Peter FollerPeter C. Foller received his Ph.D. in chemistry (with a concentration in electrochemistry) from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979. Foller first came to an ECS meeting as a graduate student with faculty advisor Charles W. Tobias. It was Foller’s first time presenting his research. He vividly remembers the experience as a mildly stressful, necessary, first opportunity to network toward gainful employment. Moreover, he recalls that ECS meeting presentations were something Professor Tobias expected long after that final handshake in his office followed by that slow turn, eyeglasses lowered, “And now you may call me Charles…”

Professionally, Foller remains surprised 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.

Foller has been advising and participating in early stage start-ups clustering in the area of chemical sensing. Notable among these, in 2011, he co-founded a chemical sending spinout of Carnegie Mellon that became key to his organizing the capabilities of Dalian Actech, Inc. (P.R. China) to, in 2017, introduce into distribution with Sensit Technologies, Inc. a family of fixed position and handheld tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy products for methane leak detection. He is an active member of the Keiretsu Forum, the world’s leading network of angel investors.

He 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.”

Foller’s bequest is a powerful way for him to help build the future of 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.

His continued involvement with ECS demonstrates his commitment to the organization. At various times he was a member of the Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco local sections. He completed the officer cycle of the IE&EE division, culminating in from 2002 to 2004 serving on the ECS board of directors. Most recently he has served on the IE&EE’s student achievement award and travel grant committees.

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.

Learn more about joining the Carl Hering Legacy Circle.