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Budingers, Khan & Martinelli named to Del. Business Hall of Fame

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(Clockwise from top left) Ayanna Khan, president and CEO of the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce; Robert Martinelli, group publisher of Today Media; and Bill and Don Budinger, the leaders of Rodel Inc., have been named to the Delaware Business Hall of Fame. | PHOTOS COURTESY OF DEBCC/TODAY MEDIA/BILL BUDINGER

WILMINGTON – The Class of 2023 for the Delaware Business Hall of Fame features longtime and newer local advocates who have made significant contributions in the First State.

Selected for induction this year are brothers Bill and Don Budinger, who founded and led the advanced materials company Rodel; Ayanna Khan, the founder, president and CEO of the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce; and Robert Martinelli, the group publisher, president and CEO of Today Media, which publishes Delaware Today magazine and Delaware Business Times.

The trio will be celebrated at an Oct. 26 ceremony held at the DuPont Experimental Station. They will join more than 75 other leaders who have been honored since the hall was formed in 1990. Honorees are selected based on their business, industry or community accomplishments that have positively influenced economic and workforce development in the region.

Bill Budinger founded Rodel Inc. in a garage in Wilmington in 1969 after a career with DuPont, and led it as its chair and CEO for more than 30 years. The company grew into a global leader of precision surface technologies – it was said that by 1990 every semiconductor made anywhere in the world was made with at least one Rodel product – and employed almost 1,000 people worldwide.

His brother Don joined the company just a few years after it was formed and helped to lead that growth as well, until they sold the company to Rohm and Haas in 1999. Today, the legacy of the company lives on after it was acquired by DuPont and the company recently announced a major expansion for the products once made by Rodel.

After selling the company, the brothers founded a nonprofit foundation focused on state education policy that continues to carry the Rodel name today.

“Don and I are deeply honored by this recognition. Given Rodel’s origin, we especially appreciate that Rodel is now a part of the DuPont Company. I had worked for DuPont in the 1960s before starting Rodel, and they not only granted title to patents I had developed there, but also helped defend it when a third party challenged our ownership,” Bill Budinger said in a statement. “Rodel Delaware, in partnership with the Delaware Community Foundation, is helping strengthen Delaware’s education system and the economic health of a state that has been so supportive of us.  We feel honored that the seeds we planted over 50 years ago will continue to impact generations of Delawareans through stronger early care, fair school funding, excellent and well-paid educators and meaningful career Pathways.”

Sensing a need amid the COVID pandemic in 2002, Khan founded the DEBCC with an aim to provide a platform for Black entrepreneurs and professionals to connect, collaborate, and thrive. Under her leadership, the chamber has grown exponentially in a short amount of time, becoming a powerful advocate for minority businesses in the state.

She understood the need because she too is an entrepreneur, launching small business consulting firm Khan Consulting LLC in 2015 following a decade-long finance career with a major communication and technology company.

“Being inducted into the Delaware Business Hall of Fame is one of the highest recognitions of achievement and dedication to the Delaware business community. It signifies a lifelong commitment to innovation, leadership, and making a lasting impact. It’s an honor that celebrates not just personal success but also the contributions made to the growth and prosperity of Delaware’s business landscape. I am truly humbled and honored to receive this recognition,” Khan said in a statement.

A New York native, Martinelli arrived in Wilmington in 1982 to take over Delaware Today magazine as part of his second-generation family publishing company. From that time, he has overseen a growth of the core lifestyle brand statewide and launched new products like Delaware Business Times, Careers & Stuff and more. The company’s Best of Delaware program for small businesses and its annual summertime Best Of party have become featured parts of the state’s social calendar. In 2012, Martinelli received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the City and Regional Magazine Association, and served as its president in 2003.

“I’m incredibly honored to be chosen. When I look at the list of past inductees, I’m humbled to be a part of this group.  This award is as much for the many talented and creative people at Today Media today and over the years,” he said in a statement.

Originally created in partnership with Hagley Museum & Library, the Hall of Fame honored historical and retired titans of industry for the impact of their work on economic and workforce development in the State and region. The Hall of Fame was later a partner with Accolade Alliance and began to include retired small business owners/entrepreneurs.

More recently, M&T Bank led the transition to include current and contemporary leaders who serve as role models to Junior Achievement students through their inventions/innovation, entrepreneurship, and/or strategic management. A more diverse and inclusive selection process led to five Laureates of Color being inducted in 2020 and 2021, and a growing pool of diverse candidates for future induction.

Tickets for the 2023 Delaware Business Leaders Hall of Fame reception and induction ceremonies are now available.

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