Charles Thomas started working for Chrysler when he was 21 years old. It wasn’t his first job, but it turned out to be his longest-lasting.

Thomas, who lives in Perryville, Md., spent 37 years at the South College Avenue plant — working his way up from the assembly line to operating the forklift in the warehouse to becoming a supervisor in the materials department, a promotion he said he will never forget.

“It meant a lot to me,” he recalled last week. “Because I really started from the bottom.”

The factory opened in 1951 as a tank plant and started making Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler automobiles in 1957. Millions of cars were produced until 2008, when Chrysler shuttered its Newark assembly plant due to a plummeting economy. The next year, the University of Delaware bought the 272-acre site, renaming it the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.

UD converted the former Chrysler administration building to a complex for its College of Health Sciences. The building boasts a speech, language and hearing clinic; a physical therapy clinic; and a nurse-managed primary care center that are all open to the public. There are also classrooms for students and research labs for projects such as GoBabyGo, which develops modified off-the-shelf toy cars, exoskeletons and harness systems for children with walking and crawling problems. Read more.

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