College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Academics. Research. Extension

Perspectives Online

« Celebrate NC Wines features wine symposium and gala wine dinner | Main | YOU DECIDE: Can government steer the economic ship?»

College names distinguished alumni

October 23, 2008

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

Dr. Catherine M. Gordon and Larry B. Wooten are recipients of the 2007-2008 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.

A native of Raleigh, N.C., Gordon graduated from the college as class valedictorian in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry. She then graduated with honors from the UNC School of Medicine in 1991. After several years with Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Harvard-MIT and the Harvard School of Public Health, she earned her master's degree in clinical investigation from Harvard University in 1998. Gordon is now associate professor of pediatrics with Harvard Medical School and staff physician in the divisions of Endocrinology and Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine, as well as director of the Children's Hospital Bone Health Program.

Her numerous awards and honors include the 2002 New Investigator Award from the Society for Adolescent Medicine and the 2007 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Early Career Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2005 she was invited to the White House where President Bill Clinton presented her with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Larry Wooten, of Raleigh, N.C., is president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, the North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Companies and all affiliated corporations. Wooten, who earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from NC State in 1973, grew up on a small farm in Pender County, where he and his brother now own a diversified tobacco and grain operation.

Wooten was a founding member of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, where he currently serves on the board of directors and executive committee. He also served as a member of the North Carolina Board of Agriculture, Gov. Jim Hunt's Rural Prosperity Task Force and the Agricultural Advancement Consortium Board. He also serves on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee and is chairman of American Farm Bureau's Trade Advisory Committee.

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

Frank Edwards (BS 1978, MS 1985, Food Science)
Simpsonville, S.C.

Edwards is manager of the applications development and support group for Sealed Air/Cryovac and is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists, the Product Development and Management Association and the National Food Processors Association. He regularly serves as a guest lecturer in the college's Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences and routinely gives Sealed Air/Cryovac presentations at Food Science Club meetings. He also has served on the Industry Advisory Council and as a judge for College Bowl competitions.

Dr. Mike Kidd (Ph.D. 1994, Nutrition with emphasis on Poultry Science)
Starkville, Miss.

Kidd is professor and head of the Department of Poultry Science at Mississippi State University. Prior to joining the faculty there, Kidd served as research manager and director of research for Nutri-Quest Inc. in Chesterfield, Mo. In 2003 and 2005, Kidd was presented the Award for Excellence for Outstanding Work by the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station. He serves on the board of directors for the Poultry Science Association, Mississippi Feed and Grain Association, and the Cargill Animal Nutrition Business Unit. Kidd also has extensive international experience, having served as a consultant or invited lecturer to more than 30 countries in Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East and Asia.

Dr. Lynn Lawry (BS 1985, Zoology)
Waldorf, Md.

Lawry is the senior health stability/humanitarian assistance specialist with the International Health Division of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Before this, she was director of the Initiative on Global Women's Health in the Division of Women's Health and a faculty member at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. During her time at Harvard, Lawry served as a volunteer medical director and as a consultant providing emergency medical care and public health programming for several humanitarian aid organizations in Kenya, the former Zaire, Rwanda and Albania. She was the senior medical researcher with Physicians for Human Rights and represented that agency in health and human rights investigations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Iraq. Lawry was recognized as a Harvard Medical School Inspiring Mentor in 1998 and 1999, and she received a 2002 Excellence in Women's Health Award.

Calvin E. Lewis, Jr. (BS 1977, Horticultural Science)
Wilmington, N.C.

Lewis started his career at American Foods Inc., in Florida and then worked for Trical of California, starting a division in Florida. In 1982, he moved back to North Carolina to help run the family farms and the soil fumigation business. In 1983, Lewis started the first large-scale, modern plasticulture production system of growing strawberries in the state. Then, in 1994, he diversified Lewis Farms into vegetable production. In 1999, he purchased American Blueberries, and in 2001, he and three partners purchased Solo Foods, a blueberry and strawberry processing firm located in Burgaw, N.C. Lewis, president of Lewis Nursery & Farms, has been a pioneer in the implementation and use of high tunnels for strawberry production in North Carolina.

William L. Meyer (BS 1970, Agronomy; MS 1977, Soil Science)
Raleigh, N.C.

Meyer attended NC State from 1961 to 1964, when he entered the U.S. Marine Corps and served one tour in Vietnam. The GI Bill provided the opportunity for him to return to NC State to complete his studies. Meyer started his career as an area environmental agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. In 1976 he became a solid waste management specialist with the NC Department of Environmental Health, Solid Waste Section. In 1989 Meyer was appointed Director of the Division of Waste Management in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, a position he held until his retirement. With responsibilities for solid waste management, hazardous waste management, superfund sites, old unlined landfills and petroleum underground storage tanks, Meyer guided the state through a period that resulted in North Carolina becoming a national leader in waste management.

Glenn T Petty (BS 1970, Animal Science and Poultry Science)
Wake Forest, N.C.

Petty is executive vice president of the 48,000-member Arabian Horse Association and is co-owner of Triangle Farms, a professional hunter-jumper farm and show facility located in Wake Forest, N.C. He is retired manager of the Gov. James B Hunt, Jr., Horse Complex at the North Carolina State Fair and has been show manager of the N.C. State Fair Horse Show since 1983. Petty coordinated the design and construction of North Carolina's two horse complexes, the Hunt Complex in Raleigh and the Western North Carolina Complex in Asheville. In 1991, he received the American Horse Council's National Service to Industry Award and received the North Carolina Governor's Award for Service to Agri-Business. In 2001, he was inducted in the North Carolina Livestock Hall of Fame.

Becky Rhodes (BS 1978, Agronomy; MS 1981 Crop Science) and
Neil Rhodes (Ph.D. 1982, Crop Science)
Maryville, Tenn.

Becky Rhodes worked 15 years for ICI Americas/Zeneca Agricultural Products in a number of capacities, including plant physiologist, market development supervisor and senior regulatory specialist. Following 10 years of operating Agricultural Research Opportunities, a regulatory and registration consulting firm that she created, she accepted her current position as Head of Regulatory Affairs for Arysta LifeScience, North America, based in Cary, N.C.

Upon graduation from NC State, Neil Rhodes worked for two years as a field development representative with Rohm and Haas before returning to his native Tennessee in 1985. He worked in a joint research and teaching faculty position at the University of Tennessee for five years, and then as professor and extension weed management specialist for 11 years before accepting his current position as head of the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Tennessee.

The Rhodes', who were married in 1992, met while students at NC State. In September 2007, they established the Becky and Neil Rhodes Weed Science Graduate Education Endowment, which will support graduate students working toward master's degrees in weed science.

Dr. Mark Sliwkowski (PhD 1981, Biochemistry)
San Carlos, Calif.

Sliwkowski is a senior scientist at Genentech in San Francisco, Calif., specializing in research oncology. Before joining Genentech, he worked with the National Institutes of Health and Berlex Biosciences as a research scientist. At Genentech, Sliwkowski's work has resulted in two drugs, Herceptin and Tarceva, receiving U.S. FDA approval for the treatment of cancer. He has been awarded the Industrial Initiative for Science and Math Education Award; the Triton Research & Development Award; and the Industry Scientist of the Year, Pharmaceutical Achievement Award.

Reggie Strickland (Associate of Applied Science in Agribusiness Management, 1987)
Mt. Olive, N.C.

Strickland is president of Strickland Farms Inc., a diversified farming operation consisting of more than 3,000 acres of row crops in Sampson, Wayne and Duplin counties. Strickland Farms also raises finishing swine for Prestage Farms Inc., currently finishing over 21,000 hogs per year. Strickland serves on the Board of Directors for the Southern Bales Gin and Cotton Company, the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association and the Public Policy Committee of the North Carolina Pork Council.

Dr. Todd L. Talarico (PhD 1989, Microbiology)
McKinney, Texas

Talarico is senior director of development for vaccine company AlphaVax. He has been instrumental in developing AlphaVax drugs targeting pandemic influenza and cytomegalovirus; grant and collaborator-supported programs in HIV, prostate and breast cancer; and several biodefense vaccines. His expertise has resulted in more than 25 publications, and he is currently a co-holder of three U.S. patents. Talarico's doctoral studies at NC State contributed to discovery of the lactobacillus compound rueterin and the establishment of BioGaia, an international company that develops probiotic nutritional products found in yogurts, milk products, drinks and supplements.

Dr. Thomas B. Whitaker (BS 1962, MS 1964, Agricultural Engineering)
Cary, N.C.

After earning his Ph.D. from Ohio State University, Whitaker accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service at NC State in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and he specializes in the improvement of food quality and food safety of agricultural products. He is a recognized expert and world leader in his field and has assisted domestic and international producers, processors, manufacturers, exporters, importers and regulatory agencies to develop mycotoxin control programs. (Mycotoxins are carcinogenic compounds produced by fungi and found in a variety of foods). Whitaker's research program has been recognized by the Food Engineering Division of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers as one of the six outstanding research achievements of the 20th century.

James F. Wilder (BS 1961, Agricultural Education)
Raleigh, N.C.

After graduating from NC State, Wilder purchased and managed a farm in Tabor City, N.C., was a poultry marketing specialist for North Carolina Farm Bureau, agricultural technician for NC State, and an agricultural media specialist before becoming executive vice president of the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association in 1972, a position he held until his retirement. Whether it was lobbying on behalf of farmers, improving seed quality or conducting international research, Wilder has worked to advance the soybean industry in North Carolina. He was awarded the 1982 Friend of Agriculture award by Commissioner Jim Graham and has been appointed to numerous USDA and NCDA&CS planning and advisory panels.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award winners:

Dr. Kate Barger (BS 1998, Animal Science and Poultry Science)
Springfield, Ark.

Barger is the manager of Central America/Mexico for Cobb-Vantress Sales and Technical Service. She works with customers in these countries to provide for the growing demand for chicken, helping them to increase production efficiency and improve overall returns. Barger was recently selected for the Tyson Leadership Development Program, where she is completing an assignment as a production manager for a high-level genetic farm and will soon begin an assignment in animal welfare and global food safety. She also is president of the Arkansas Poultry Veterinary Association.

Cynthia Gigandet (Associate of Applied Science in Agribusiness Management, 1998; and BS 2001, Agricultural Business Management)
Apex, N.C.

Gigandet is senior marketing manager for Professional Pest Control products at BASF's Crop Protection Division, located in Research Triangle Park, N.C. She leads marketing and communication strategies for the North American business unit. For six years, Cynthia worked at John Deere Worldwide Commercial and Consumer Equipment Division in Cary, N.C., where she managed the marketing strategy, planning and execution of the John Deere product lines in the Home Depot and Lowe's.

Written by:
Suzanne Stanard, 919.513.3126 or

Posted by Suzanne at October 23, 2008 05:06 PM