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Bill Madia ’69, M’71

Bill Madia '69, M'71

Bill Madia grew up in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Swissvale, along the Monongahela River. While many of the children he grew up with looked forward to a career in one of the city’s many steel mills, Bill had a passion for science—a passion that led him to dream a little bigger and to endeavor to become the first person in his family to attend college. When he was accepted at both Penn State and IUP, he had a choice to make.

“That summer,” Bill explains, “I went to work as a pot scrubber in the restaurant at Kauffman’s department store in Monroeville. Working six to seven days a week, I earned $1,000. In 1965, the cost of a full year at Penn State was $1,200 and IUP was $1,000, so I went off to Indiana! It was as simple as that.”

Bill did end up working in the steel mills after all, during the next three summers, to pay for his education at IUP, but he was also assisted by a partial tennis scholarship that provided him a meal plan. He pursued his passion for science and spent a lot of time in the newly constructed Weyandt Hall. But he admits he was not the most serious student as an undergraduate, taking advantage of being away from home for the first time. Those liberties led to strong friendships with his fraternity brothers in Sigma Tau Gamma—friendships that have lasted more than forty years.

Bill’s fondest memory of his undergraduate days at IUP revolves around another significant relationship that developed there. Freshman year, Bill met Audrey DeLaquil at a dance in the student union. They married shortly after graduation, and forty-five years later, they are still together.

Bill followed up his B.S. in Chemistry with an M.S. through IUP’s Physics Department. He became more serious about his studies, and when his master’s work was done, he went to Texas A&M to earn a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics. But seven days after arriving in Texas, Bill was drafted into the Army. He served two years in Washington, D.C., conducting top secret scientific research for the Joint Chiefs of Staff before being released and finishing his education on the G.I. Bill. This time, Bill went to Blacksburg, Va., to study nuclear chemistry at Virginia Tech. To this day, he holds the record for fastest Ph.D. completed at that institution. He graduated in twenty-seven months.

In 1975, the next stop for Bill and his family was Columbus, Ohio, where he was hired at Battelle. He spent his first ten years there as a researcher in Battelle’s nuclear programs before being promoted to lab director in 1985. He continued to serve as a scientific administrator over the course of his career, overseeing Battelle’s labs in Frankfurt, Germany, and Geneva in addition to leading both the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. Bill often found himself working alongside other IUP alumni at the various labs he managed.

In 1988, Bill learned that he’d been nominated and selected to receive IUP’s Distinguished Alumni Award. “I was surprised,” Bill said. “You just don’t expect that to happen. I was really honored to be considered, and to win. I owe so much to IUP—I had such a great time there and got such a great education—to receive all that benefit and then to get the award on top of that is just more than I deserve, that’s for sure.”

Bill manages to make it back to IUP once or twice a year, and when he does, he likes to visit old haunts such as Weyandt Hall, the Sigma Tau House, and Lefty’s bar (later Kangaroo’s). But even when not present in Indiana, Bill and Audrey have stayed involved in other ways. Five years ago, they endowed an annual scholarship to provide tuition support for an IUP student. Most recently, they hosted an alumni reception at their home in the Bay Area to introduce IUP’s president to more than forty local alumni. Bill is also on the board of the John P. Murtha Institute for Homeland Security and has visited IUP to lecture and encourage growth of the university’s scientific research programs.

Bill retired in 2007 after thirty-three years at Battelle. But retirement hasn’t meant slowing down. “That’s the fun part about retirement,” Bill explains. “When you’re retired, you do what you want to do. When you’re working, you do what you have to do. When you’re retired, you can pick and choose. It’s wonderfully empowering.”

He currently serves on the presidential advisory boards for MIT, Michigan State University, and Princeton, for which he consults on research matters. He also serves on the boards of three venture capital firms that invest in green technologies—EnerTech Capital Partners, Rockport Capital Partners, and Primaxis Technology Ventures. Additionally, Bill works as a vice president at Stanford University on a variety of federal research and development projects and helps oversee Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Upon Bill’s retirement, he and Audrey chose to relocate to the Bay Area to be closer to their three sons, Joe (thirty-nine), Ben (thirty-seven), and Will (thirty-four). Since relocating, their family has grown to include two grandchildren.

Profile published on 12/7/10

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