Biography of Charles F., Eugene, and Virginia Kettering

Charles F. Kettering was born August 28, 1876 in Loudonville, Ohio to Jacob and Martha Kettering. During his early life, his academic career was hindered by bad eyesight, and he was forced to drop out of college twice. He finally received an electrical engineering degree at Ohio State University in 1904, and married Olive Williams a year later. They had one son, Eugene, born on April 20, 1908. Charles worked at NCR (the National Cash Register) as a research engineer where he met E. A. Deeds, who later also would become a prominent Dayton industrialist. He, Deeds and their "Barn Gang" were instrumental in the development of the first electric starter for an automobile which would revolutionize the industry. Charles F. Kettering, known as "Boss Ket" by most, went on to found DELCO (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company) with Col. E. A. Deeds. When DELCO was bought out by GM it became the General Motors Research Corporation, and Kettering was made vice president in 1920, going on to work there for 27 years. An active head of research and development at G.M., Kettering also built a laboratory in the basement of his Ridgeleigh Terrace home in Dayton, as well as sponsoring the development of laboratories at Antioch College.

Kettering held over 300 patents, second only to Thomas Edison. His inventions include Freon, electric starters, ignition systems, headlights for automobiles, portable lighting systems, and the 'Kettering Bug,' a self-propelled aerial torpedo developed during WWI. Kettering was also involved in the development of DUCO paint, ethyl gasoline, diesel engines, and alternative energy sources like solar power.

His hobbies included traveling, and he traveled widely, including a cross-country drive with his wife and others, and later to exotic destinations like the Galapagos Islands on his yacht the Olive K., named for his wife. He was also a member of numerous clubs like the Cocolobo Bay Florida Beach Club, the Surf Club, and along with Col. E. A. Deeds founded the Engineers Club of Dayton.

As a result of his success, Mr. Kettering used his wealth to support a variety of philanthropic interests. His interest in medical technology and the sudden death of his wife Olive Kettering in 1946 from pancreatic cancer, prompted him to match Alfred Sloan's contributions in founding the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. This philanthropic nature served as the foundation for the later development of the Kettering Health Network and the Kettering College of Medical Arts, founded by his son and daughter-in-law.

For his achievements in engineering and philanthropy, Mr. Kettering received many awards and honors both during his life and posthumously. He received honorary degrees from numerous universities and in 1998 the General Motors Institute was renamed Kettering University, in honor of his services to the company. There are also many elementary and high schools that bear his name, as well as the City of Kettering, a suburb of Dayton. Charles F. Kettering died on November 25, 1958.

Eugene Kettering, born in 1908 in Dayton, Ohio, was Charles' and Olive's only son. He graduated from the Moraine Park School and attended Cornell University. He married Virginia Weiffenbach on April 5, 1930; they went on to have three children, Charles F. II, Jane, and Susan. Soon after being married he went to work at the Winton Engine Company and later the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division of General Motors. In 1936, he moved to Detroit to work on the 567 Series of Diesel Engines and was pivotal in the development of G.M.'s diesel-electric locomotive. In 1938 he was promoted to Chief Engineer for the Electro-Motive Division, and became Division Director in 1956. From 1958 until his resignation in 1960, he served as Research Assistant to the General Manager, and as a consultant. He retired from General Motors soon after his father's death, so that he could manage the Kettering estate and philanthropic legacy.

Eugene and his wife Virginia shared Boss Ket's philanthropic passion for medical technology and care, establishing the Hinsdale Health Museum in Hinsdale, IL. in 1958, and opening the Charles F. Kettering Memorial Hospital on March 3, 1964. Eugene also received multiple honorary degrees and awards. He passed away at the age of 61 in 1969.

Virginia Weiffenbach was born in Bellevue, KY., on July 15, 1907, to Norman and Clara Weiffenbach. The Weiffenbachs soon moved to Dayton where Virginia attended the Moraine Park School. There she met Eugene Kettering, whom she married in 1930. She also attended Carnegie Tech and Lutherville Seminary. During her life she shared her husband's interest in the development of the United States Air Force Museum, as well as philanthropic interests, especially in the areas of medicine and the arts. She was the director of numerous philanthropic organizations including the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Air Force Museum Foundation, in addition to many others. Upon her husband Eugene's death, Virginia continued to be a generous patron of the arts and other civic and humanitarian causes.

For her efforts, Virginia received many awards including numerous honorary degrees. In early 1973, she married H. Warren Kampf. Mr. Kampf passed on August 15, 1979. Virginia Kettering passed away on February 17, 2003.