The Legacy of Frank P. Tourville, Sr.
This is the story of a visionary, an entrepreneur, an innovator, a caring leader, a lifelong benefactor, a loving husband, and a devoted family man. His kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him.
Frank P. Tourville, Sr. was born September 1, 1933, and grew up on a Vermont dairy farm. As one of nine children, Frank worked on his family’s dairy farm daily, instilling in him a solid work ethic from an early age. In his late teens, he joined the military service as a combat engineer and paratrooper, serving time in Germany during the Korean War. This experience taught Frank a lot about competitiveness, teamwork, attention to detail, and excellence. It also sparked his entrepreneurial spirit. To earn extra money, he would spit-shine boots for his fellow soldiers for 50 cents a pair.
Upon discharge in 1956, Frank took his first civilian job in Vermont with American Supertemp Wire Co. He was a successful extruder operator and later a company manager.
On June 22, 1957 he married Pearl Adams in Clinton, New York. They took up residence in Vermont.
In 1962, Frank and his family moved to Massachusetts, where he revamped and managed the Boston Insulated Wire company. In 1964, he served as the foreman for Trimflex, a more extensive operation producing insulated wire and tubing.
Unleashing His Entrepreneurial Spirit
After ten years working in the extrusion industry, Frank saw an opportunity to do it better. “If they can do it, why not us,” he said. “We can do it better” became a phrase synonymous with Mr. Tourville throughout his life. And so, in 1966, he launched Zeus Industrial Products, Inc.
Mr. Tourville bought his first extruder from Times Wire & Cable, rented an old warehouse facility in Raritan, New Jersey, and hired his first employee. Together, both people and machines formed the foundation of what would become a thriving business. Mr. Tourville worked 17-hour days to get the company up and running.
A married man with four sons, all under the age of nine, times were tough for Frank and his wife, Pearl. But tenacity and ingenuity drove the young Tourville family forward. Soon, Zeus would become one of the first polymer solutions providers to support minimally invasive techniques for revolutionary catheterization procedures.
By 1976, Zeus employed over 30 people and purchased the Raritan, NJ plant. By 1980, the company was ready for expansion, and Frank visited South Carolina to look for potential facilities. Shortly after, Zeus purchased an old Cotton Mill building in Orangeburg, built a custom PTFE extruder, and employed its first ten people.
Leading Zeus to Global Leadership
Since its humble beginnings in a decrepit old warehouse, Zeus has evolved into a global leader in designing and manufacturing advanced polymer solutions. Mr. Tourville grew the company to operate 11 facilities across the North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific regions.
Such innovation and expansion did not come easy, and Mr. Tourville was challenged continuously to “do it better.” When engineers told him something couldn’t be done, he persevered and did it anyway. “Can’t” was not a word in his vocabulary. Throughout the years, Mr. Tourville never wavered in his commitment to finding a better way, which garnered him much respect and recognition within the industry.
"The world lost a great man, while I lost a good friend and mentor," said former Zeus President & CEO John Winarchick. "Frank Tourville will be long remembered and sorely missed by all who knew him."
In 2002, DuPont presented Mr. Tourville with its prestigious M.I. “Whitey” Bro Lifetime Achievement Award in Fluoropolymers for his contribution as a foundational pioneer to the fluoropolymer tubing market. He was only one of two people ever to receive this award. Throughout the years, industry leaders have acknowledged Zeus for outstanding performance in product innovation, quality, and service. Under Mr. Tourville’s leadership, the company has received awards from partners and customers worldwide, including Boston Scientific, Abbott, and Boeing, to name a few.
Making an Impact Beyond the World of Polymer Innovation
Mr. Tourville and his wife Pearl call Orangeburg, South Carolina home. Since arriving in 1982, they invested heavily in the region’s economic and community development. Their substantial investment resulted in over 1,200 new jobs across the state of South Carolina (and growing).
"I was very sad to hear of the passing of my good friend Frank Tourville. Mr. Tourville made a huge positive impact on the Orangeburg community and South Carolina as a whole," said U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. "He was an absolute delight to be around and one of the most generous people I have ever known. Mr. Tourville worked incredibly hard to bring his local community together, and his holiday parties were always a highlight of the year.
I know his legacy will carry on through the many great works he was involved with, as well as his company, Zeus Industrial Products. My thoughts and prayers are with his wonderful family and legion of friends. He touched so many lives and will be greatly missed."
Passionate about developing Orangeburg County as an attractive destination for other businesses, Mr. Tourville generously supported and invested in local amenities. In 2009, upon its impending closure during the financial crisis, he purchased and completely redeveloped the Orangeburg Country Club. His investment preserved an essential hub for business development in the region.
Throughout the years, Mr. and Mrs. Tourville continuously shared their time, experience, and resources with many charities, community initiatives, colleges, and universities. Two significant contributions include financial support for a cardiac center at the Medical University of South Carolina, the Frank P. Tourville Sr. Arrhythmia Treatment Center, and an advanced women’s health center, the Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion at the Medical University of South Carolina’s Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.
"Frank was one of the most inspirational individuals that I've had the privilege of knowing personally; he was dedicated to his family, his community, and South Carolina in ways that many only aspire to during their lifetimes," said MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS. "Frank and his family have made a significant positive impact for thousands of patients because of their generous philanthropy to MUSC through the years, which wouldn't surprise those that knew him well. In fact, the last time I saw Frank and asked him what I could do for him, his only thought was for the support and help of others. He's the kind of man who comes along once in a generation, and his loss is felt deeply by me, Kathy, and the entire MUSC family."
In 2010, Mr. Tourville received the Order of the Palmetto award, the state’s highest civilian honor awarded to South Carolina citizens for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. This high honor is a tribute to his life’s work and contribution to society at large.
"Peggy and I are saddened to learn of Mr. Tourville's passing," said Gov. Henry McMaster. "His impact on South Carolina and her people - through his selfless service to his community and his entrepreneurial spirit - will be felt for generations."
Despite considerable achievements, Mr. Tourville maintained a reputation for humility and personal integrity, not least amongst his worldwide team at Zeus. Mr. Tourville always referred to his team members as his “Zeus family.” His genuine concern for people and can-do attitude around innovation created a unique family atmosphere at Zeus. He nurtured a culture where people genuinely care about each other and about the work they do.
“I knew and admired Mr. Frank Tourville for years. He hired me in April of 1975 in Raritan, New Jersey, and I continued in his employment until 2015,” said John Worley, former President & CEO of Zeus Industrial Products, Inc. “Frank loved his family and his Zeus family. At Zeus he set policies and standards that greatly benefited his employees and helped Zeus to become extremely successful. Truly, very few men have had the influence, love, and generosity which Frank has given to us.”
Memorial donations can be made to the American Heart Association via "Remembering Frank P. Tourville, Sr." or to the Orangeburg-Calhoun Free Medical Clinic (141 Centre St, Orangeburg, SC 29115).
Family and friends are also invited to share memories of how he touched their lives by submitting them on the Zeus website at https://ourfounder.zeusinc.com/.
Frank P. Tourville, Sr. created a worthy legacy that will live on for many generations to come through the Tourville family's honored commitment to carry forth his integrity, vision, and values, and through Zeus' dedication to continuing the work he loved so much. His Zeus team, community associates, industry colleagues, family, and friends will miss him greatly.
AWARDS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS
1991: City of Orangeburg: Key to the City
1993: Orangeburg Chamber of Commerce Spirit Award
2001: Links, Inc. Humanitarian Award
2002: Orangeburg City Council Edisto Award
2002: DuPont “Whitey” Bro Lifetime Achievement Award
2005: Medical University of South Carolina: Society of 1824 Award
2006: Orangeburg Touchdown Club Community Service Award
2006: South Carolina Ambassador of Economic Development for Orangeburg County
2006: South Carolina State University: Thomas E. Miller Society Inductee
2006: Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College: Friends of Colleges Award
2006: South Carolina Rural Entrepreneur of the Year
2008: Delta Zeta Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
2009: Times & Democrat “Person of the Year”
2010: Order of the Palmetto: Highest civilian award bestowed to a South Carolinian
2013: Newberry College: Noah and Pansy Derrick Outstanding Friend Award
2015: Inaugural Orangeburg County Business Hall of Fame Inductee