College mourns loss of John Palmour

The College of Engineering notes with great sadness the death of John Palmour, an alumnus of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and founder of local companies Cree, Inc. and Wolfspeed.

Palmour died on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. He was 62.

He earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in materials science and engineering from NC State in 1982 and 1988, respectively. Following his academic career, he and fellow NC State graduates co-founded what became Cree, Inc., a Durham-based LED lighting company. Cree is now Wolfspeed and is focused on the design and manufacture of silicon carbide and GaN materials, power-switching devices and RF devices. Palmour most recently served as chief technology officer of Wolfspeed, which announced plans in September for a major expansion with construction of a new manufacturing facility in Chatham County, NC.

“The entire Wolfspeed family mourns this loss,” the company said in a statement on its website. “From the start, John led with intelligence, humor, integrity and passion. As one of our founders and an expert technologist, John championed the adoption of silicon carbide across many applications and industries, and in doing so impacted so many of our lives for the better. Beyond Wolfspeed, the contributions John made to science and our world are immeasurable and will be felt for generations to come. On behalf of our management team and employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to John’s family.”

John Palmour
John Palmour

Palmour was named a Distinguished Engineering Alumnus by the College of Engineering in 2009 and was elected to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2015.

In October, Palmour was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Palmour played an active role in driving research collaborations with NC State engineering faculty and students and has provided generous support for the College and University, including endowing a scholarship in honor of his father, a longtime NC State ceramic engineering professor. This fall, he participated in a panel discussion at NC State’s James B. Hunt Jr. Library on the role the College of Engineering plays in the growing North Carolina economy.

A memorial service to be held in William Neal Reynolds Coliseum on NC State’s campus is planned for Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023.

This post was originally published in College of Engineering News.