Jerome Lippman, the inventor of heavy-duty, waterless hand soap, died on March 2. Cause of death was not released. He was 92.
The son of Eastern European immigrants, Lippman was just a teenager when he began running his own laundry business. The Buffalo, N.Y., native dropped out of high school in the 11th grade then moved to Akron, Ohio. During World War II, Lippman and his first wife, Goldie, worked in area factories — he at the Goodyear Aircraft plant and she at the Miller Tire Co.
The work was repetitious and dirty. Although Lippman didn’t mind so much, Goldie disliked coming home covered in sticky black carbon. At the time, only borax or benzene could remove the grime and both cleansers were rough on her skin. So Lippman joined forces with Kent State University chemistry professor Clarence Cook to develop a strong, grease-cutting soap that could be used with or without water.
The cleanser was such a hit that Lippman was able to quit his factory job and open his own company, GOJO Industries Inc. Soon he was spending his nights making the heavy-duty hand cleaner and his days selling the product from the back of his car. When local garage and factory owners complained about the costs of the soap, he invented a portion-controlled dispenser for their employees to use.
Over the next half century, GOJO Industries became a leader in the heavy-duty hand cleaner market. Today the company employs hundreds of workers and sells a wide range of skin care products — including the successful Purell hand sanitizer — to automotive, food service and healthcare facilities all around the world. In 1996, Lippman received the American Eagle Award from the American Supply and Machinery Manufacturers Association for outstanding entrepreneurial leadership.
Lippman was also a dedicated philanthropist who supported charities for the poor and victims of violence. He had a keen interest in helping children obtain an education, and put up the first $1,000 for what became known as the Jerome Lippman Jewish Community Day School. In recent years, his company established a scholarship in his honor for nontraditional students pursuing a degree at Summit College in Akron.