Recruited by DuPont in 1951, Ed joined the company at the Belle Works in West Virginia and worked in a variety of locations until 1958 when he settled in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1973, he was appointed a director, senior vice president, and member of the Executive Committee. In 1978, he was given responsibility for the direction and coordination of all research and development activities for the company. On January 1, 1980, he was named president and chief operating officer, and, on May 1, 1981, he became chairman and chief executive officer. That same year, he led the DuPont acquisition of Conoco. He served on the DuPont Board of Directors from 1973 to 1992.
During his long career, Ed was co-chair of the Business Roundtable; a member of the American Section of the Society of Chemical Industry, of which he was formerly chair; vice chair of the Conference Board; a member of the President’s Export Council; and a member of the U.S. Council for International Business. He was an honorary member of the Business Council and a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Chemical Society, and Directors of Industrial Research. He was a director of the Chemical Banking Corporation and its subsidiary, Chemical Bank, and a director of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. He also served on the boards of the Diamond State Telephone Company and Seagram Company Ltd.
Ed was also vice chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware, which the Jefferson family held in special regard. The family made many contributions to the school, including the donation of a pipe organ to the Edward G. and Naomi L. Jefferson Music Gallery and the establishment of a music scholarship. A chair in the Biotechnology Institute was established in Dr. Jefferson’s name. Ed also contributed to higher education in a number of other ways. He was chair of the Advisory Board, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and of Tuskegee University. Dr. Jefferson was awarded the Chemical Industry Medal by the Society of the Chemical Industry and received a number of honorary degrees.
He was a trustee of the Dole Foundation for the Handicapped