The Joseph Y. Bennett Foundation 2017-07-06T11:18:14+00:00

The Joseph Y. Bennett Foundation was founded to support charitable and educational activities related to The Polymers Center of Excellence.

Joseph Y. Bennett
October 30, 1944 – March 4, 2017

Joseph “Joe” Bennett was born October 30, 1944 in Yancey County, North Carolina. He was the son of the late Colonel Barlow “C.B.” Bennett and Mary Young Bennett. Joe attended Washington College Academy in Tennessee. He started his career as a Tool & Die/Moldmaker with Western Electric in Indianapolis, Indiana. While in Indiana, Joe also attended Purdue University. Afterwards, he moved back to North Carolina to accept a position as Tooling Engineer for Decorative Components, Inc. in Forest City, NC.

In 1970, Joe became the co-founder of United Southern Industries. Five years later, United Southern was bought by R.P. Industries, and Joe became Operations Manager. He was soon promoted to President where he was instrumental in the development of numerous markets, including telecommunications and data processing equipment. R.P. Industries later bought Isoplast, Inc. and in 1982, Joe was made President and General Manager of the Ellenboro operation.

As a boy from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Joe inherited a strong work ethic striving for excellence in both his personal and professional life. As a strong supporter of education, Joe constructed and equipped a state-of-the-art computer learning lab for his employees. He wanted them to receive onsite training in computer operation and plastic technology, and offered access to company sponsored courses offered through various universities and colleges.

Joe believed in the importance to sharing knowledge with others and seeking to improve the technology in the plastics industry. That’s why he was a member of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) for over 50 years, serving as President and Councilor for the Carolinas Section, and as National Education Chairman. He was a member of the Society of Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI) for 30 years, serving on the National Board of Directors. While with SPI, Joe spent countless hours establishing the National Plastics Certification program for machine operators. But perhaps his most lasting contribution was meeting the challenged to match a $100,000 grant for an educational endowment – the Richard Goolsby Scholarship. Closer to home he helped establish a two-year curriculum for Plastics l at Isothermal Community College.

Joe was an original member of the Board of Directors at the Polymers Center of Excellence, where his calm voice of reason kept the emerging institution on an even keel during its early years. At the time of his death, Joe was still active on its Board.

Joe has received countless awards in his field and has contributed generously over his lifetime to various causes.

He worked tirelessly to provide good jobs and opportunity to the people of Rutherford County and the surrounding area. From its humble beginnings in 1970, United Southern reached 33 million dollars in sales and employed over 350 people. In 2010, he sold United Southern to Wilbert Plastics. In 2014, Joe was inducted in the Plastics Pioneers Association – one of the highest of honors in the plastics industry. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Forest City for 47 years, where he served as a Deacon and Elder of the church as well as Trustee.

Throughout his life, Joe loved cars and collected them. His brother, Buddy did the same. The two of them eventually partnered and created “The Bennett Classic Car Museum,” housed in a building that Buddy had originally built for his trucking business.

We grieve the loss of Joe but are happy for the opportunity to share his stories. Especially the ones he would tell as he strolled down the crowded aisles of the museum, narrating the story of each of his beautiful specimens. The Bennett Museum is a living memorial to one of Joe’s favorite passions.

Joseph Y. Bennett

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