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College names distinguished alumni

October 18, 2007

Media Contact: Scott Troutman, executive director of the CALS Alumni and Friends Society, at 919.515.7857 or

A. Tab Williams Jr. and Dr. L. Wiley Nifong are recipients of the 2006-2007 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. The two were honored recently for their outstanding career achievements and for their commitment to the land-grant principle of service to community, state and nation.

Williams of Winston-Salem graduated from the college in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in agronomy. While, early in his career, he served as an agricultural Extension agent in Forsyth County and as a sales supervisor for the Winston-Salem Tobacco Market, in 1963 he purchased six full-service gas stations and founded the A.T. Williams Oil Company. That company later grew to become Wilco Travel and Fuel Plazas, which by the late 1990s, was the largest independent gasoline retailer in North Carolina. In 2001, Williams sold half of his company to a long time supplier, Amerada Hess Corporation, forming WilcoHess LLC.

Williams is a member of the university's Peele and Pullen lifetime giving societies. In 1996, he established a charitable annuity lead trust that makes annual gifts to support three scholarships -- the A. Tab Williams Jr. CALS Endowed Scholarship Fund, the John T. Caldwell-A. Tab Williams Jr. Scholarship Endowment Fund and the A. Tab Williams Jr. Athletic Scholarship Endowment Fund. In 2003, he was chosen to receive the Watauga Medal, the highest nonacademic honor bestowed by N.C. State University.

Nifong, a native of Hyde County, is a magna cum laude graduate of the college with a 1985 bachelor's degree in poultry science. He earned his 1990 medical degree from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, where he received the Frank Longino Award for Excellence in Surgery. He now serves as associate professor and director of surgical robotics and surgical research for the Brody School, where he is board certified in cardiac surgery and is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society.

He has been a pioneer in the use of robotics to perform minimally invasive cardiac surgery. In 2000, he helped perform the first total heart valve surgery using robotic technology in North America. Nifong successfully led the FDA trials for the DaVinci mitral valve surgery application, which has helped transform the Brody School into one of the world's leading training centers for robotic cardiac surgery. Nifong has personally led the training of more than 300 heart surgeons from around the world in using the DaVinci application, often traveling across the globe to deliver this highly skilled training.

The college also named Outstanding Alumni Award winners from several departments:

Dr. Jerry J. Baron (Ph.D. 1985, Horticultural Science)
Hillsborough, New Jersey

Dr. Baron is the executive director of the IR-4 Project, a cooperative program in the United States among the state agricultural experimental stations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, growers and commodity organizations, the crop protection industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The IR-4 Project involves research at 31 field research farms and seven analytical laboratories to facilitate the registration of chemical and biological crop products on specialty crops. Baron is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the IR-4 Project with an operation budget of approximately $30 million and 125 full time scientists.

Richard H. Brooks (B.S. 1979, Soil Conservation)
Apex, North Carolina

During his 22 years with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Conservation, Brooks helped complete soil surveys in Sampson, Person, Granville, Franklin and Chatham counties, mapping several hundred thousand acres for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) National Cooperative Soil Survey. In 2001, Brooks was selected to be a soil data quality specialist with NRCS in Raleigh. He now serves as a resource soil scientist responsible for identifying wetlands and providing soil interpretations for southeastern North Carolina.

Dr. Suzanne E. Case (B.S. 1983, M.S. 1988, Ph.D. 1992, Food Science)
Morristown, New Jersey

Case's outstanding achievement during her master's program at N.C. State earned her a prestigious USDA National Feeds Fellowship for her Ph.D. program. After leaving N.C. State, Case worked for National Starch for two years before moving to her current employer, Kraft Foods. At Kraft, she was a major contributor to the successful DiGiorno Pizza brand, and her current position as section manager of ingredient and process research puts her in a position to make significant research contributions to the cereal science area.

Dr. George T. Everett (M.S. 1973, Ph.D. 1979, Zoology)
Raleigh, North Carolina

Before becoming director of environmental and legislative affairs for Duke Energy, Everett held a number of different positions in academia, industry and state government. Everett was awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina's highest civilian honor, for his environmental contributions to the state. And Duke Energy awarded him the Environmental Health and Safety Partner Award in 2003 for his leadership role in the Clean Smokestacks legislative effort.

Dr. S. Elizabeth George (M.S. 1981, Ph.D. 1984, Microbiology)
Burke, Virginia

George serves as the deputy division head of the Chemical and Biological Countermeasures Division in the Science and Technology Directorate, Department of Homeland Security. Her significant accomplishments include the design and deployment of BioWatch, the nation's first civilian biological threat agent monitoring system, and PROTECT, the first civilian operational chemical detection and response capability deployed in the Washington subway system. She is the recipient of the Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary's Award for Science and Technology, and the U.S. EPA Bronze Medal and Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards.

Dr. Larry E. Price (B.S. 1981, M.S. 1985, Ph.D. 1990, Agricultural Education)
Wilson, North Carolina

Climbing the ranks from high school teacher to his current position of superintendent of Wilson County Schools, Price has dedicated his career to education. His tenure has been marked by numerous achievements, including 2006 Central Carolina Superintendent of the Year; 2006 North Carolina Superintendent of the Year; 2006 Runner-Up, National Superintendent of the Year; and inductee into the East Carolina University Educator Hall of Fame.

George W. Rivenbark (A.A. 1973, Agricultural Institute)
Wallace, North Carolina

Rivenbark has pursued a wide variety of careers from owning a fertilizer and chemical company to managing farms, chicken hatcheries and feed mills. He currently serves as safety director and production coordinator for House of Raeford Farms Inc. Active with Boy Scouts of America, Rivenbark serves as chairman of the Eagle Scout Board of Review and as a scoutmaster. He was instrumental in establishing the Agricultural Institute Alumni Scholarship in the N.C. State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which is now fully endowed and annually awards financial assistance to deserving students.

Dr. Grant M. Scobie (Ph.D. 1973, Agricultural Economics)
Wellington, New Zealand

As principal advisor to the treasury of New Zealand, Scobie serves as senior economist to the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, as well as principal economist and chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Motu Economic and Public Policy Trust of New Zealand. He also is the current president of the New Zealand Association of Economists and has served as President of the New Zealand Agricultural Economics Society. Scobie has been appointed to be a lay member of the High Court of New Zealand and was awarded the Outstanding New Zealand Economist Award.

B. Keith Shoemaker (B.S. 1973, Poultry Science, Agricultural Economics)
Clinton, North Carolina

A poultry industry leader for more than 20 years, Shoemaker began his career at Perdue Farms, then joined Carroll's Foods Inc. After the company merged with Murphy Brown, LLC, in 2001, Shoemaker became president of Carroll's Turkeys and managing partner for Smithfield Foods' processing plant, Carolina Turkeys, and Tar Heel Turkey Hatchery. In October 2006, when Carolina Turkeys acquired the Butterball brand, Shoemaker became president and CEO of Butterball. He also has served as director-at-large for the National Turkey Federation and as president of North Carolina Poultry Federation.

James I. "Jim" Smith (B.S. 1959, Animal Science)
Stem, North Carolina

Smith spent his career with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, serving as assistant farm manager and farm manager for the State Farms Division, as well as manager of the Umstead Research Farm. He also has served as president of the North Carolina Cattleman's Association and three other breed associations. Smith has been inducted into the North Carolina Angus Hall of Fame, the State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame and the N.C. State Animal Science Hall of Fame. In 2006, he was awarded the college's Outstanding Volunteer Award for bringing to fruition nearly one dozen Animal Science endowments, including two that he and his wife Nancy funded.

Dr. Larry M. Sykes (B.S. 1966, M.S. 1968, Ph.D. 1971, Biological and Agricultural Engineering)
Richmond, Virginia

Sykes served in various positions with the Philip Morris Company until his retirement in 2004 as director of agricultural programs in the leaf department. He coordinated relations for Philip Morris with the United States tobacco production industry concerning tobacco production technology, tobacco production policy and public issues. He also oversaw the company's grant programs in support of research, extension and academic programs at seven land-grant universities in the southeastern United States. Sykes and his wife Rita endowed the Larry M. and Rita P. Sykes Scholarship to benefit students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Steven W. Troxler (B.S. 1974, Conservation)
Browns Summit, North Carolina

Since taking office as commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2005, Troxler has focused on developing new markets for North Carolina farm products, preserving working farms and protecting the state's food supply. He has held leadership positions in numerous agricultural and community organizations, including the North Central Farm Credit Association, the Guilford County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the State Extension Advisory Council. During his career, Troxler has received a number of awards, including the Conservation Guardian Award of the Guilford County Soil Conservation Service and the N.C. Agricultural Extension Service's Outstanding Service Award.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award winners:

Robyn R. Jones (B.S. 1999, Food Science)
Alexandria, Virginia

Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Jones studied abroad in Asia, then attended graduate school at Michigan State University. Now a science policy analyst with the United States Food and Drug Administration, Jones has received numerous awards for her contributions and teamwork, including the 2006 Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Outstanding Customer Service Award. She has been particularly focused on helping N.C. State students and new graduates prepare to enter the workforce and be successful in the food technology industry.

Donny L. Lassiter (B.S. 1999, Agricultural Business Management)
Conway, North Carolina

Along with his father and brother, Lassiter operates a 5,500-acre farm in Northampton County growing cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans and wheat. He also is the owner of Cyprus Knee Chufa, one of the largest producers of chufa in United States. Chufa is the most preferred food source and one of the most popular crops planted for wild turkeys and waterfowl. Cyprus Knee handles processing and retail sales of this value-added agricultural product. Lassiter recently was elected to serve on the board of advisors of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni and Friends Society.

Written by:
Suzanne Stanard, 919.513.3126 or

Posted by Suzanne at October 18, 2007 04:41 PM