“A friend to all”: Fred Webb honored with creation of Webb/Caldwell Scholarship endowment

In honor of the life and achievements of J. Fred Webb Jr., the James Fred Webb Jr./John T. Caldwell Alumni Scholarship Endowment was established by his family on July 14 at N.C. State University’s  Dorothy and  Roy Park Alumni Center.  Webb’s wife, Nell, along with his children and grandchildren, attended a luncheon with university representatives prior to the ceremony creating the endowment in the N.C. Agricultural Foundation and the N.C. State Alumni Association.

The endowment will provide scholarships for the Alumni Caldwell Fellows Program at N.C. State according to the Webb family’s stipulation that scholarship recipients be currently enrolled as undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at N.C. State in a traditional agriculture department.

Among those attending the event were N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson; Dr. Barbara Kirby, CALS associate director and director of the Agricultural Institute; Alumni Association Executive Director Benny Suggs; Lawrence Davenport, chairman of the N.C. State Board of Trustees; former N.C. State trustee Bob Mattocks; Bonner Gaylord, Raleigh city councilman and Fred Webb’s grandson; and Lloyd Horton, close friend of the Webb family.

Another special guest was Caroline Yopp, a rising sophomore in agricultural education and communications from Dunn, who is the first recipient of the new Webb/Caldwell fellowship award. “I feel so blessed to have this opportunity,” she said. “They wanted [a scholarship recipient] with an interest or background in agriculture. It’s a great way to live and grow up.”

Kirby offered the invocation and thanks to the Webb family on behalf of the College, while Suggs welcomed the group to the Alumni Center, saying, “Today we honor the vision of two great men: J. Fred Webb and John T. Caldwell. This is only the third such endowment with this partnership, and both the Alumni Association and the College are indebted to the Webb family for their generosity.”

Suggs then introduced Woodson, who said, “We’re very grateful to the family for this endowment, part of the Caldwell Scholars program which is the original and oldest merit program at N.C. State. Named for former Chancellor John T. Caldwell, someone who meant so much to this institution, the Caldwell Scholars were created to honor his legacy and carry out his spirit and ideals.”

Davenport then came forward to reminisce about Webb. As a student, Webb won the national crop judging team trophy, and later “he was the epitome of a good businessman. He especially liked to help young people,” Davenport said. “I know this personally, because, as a young man, I often called on him for advice, and he always delivered.”

Web endowment ceremony
The Webb family and friends gathered with N.C. State University administrators to create the new Webb/Caldwell endowment.

Described as a “friend to all in the agricultural community,” Webb, an Edgecombe County native, was a 1939 N.C. State graduate with a degree in agriculture. After service in World War II, he began his career in the grain business and soon launched an agricultural commodity merchant company, Fred Webb Inc., in Greenville. The company, with subsidiaries in cotton and agricultural land businesses, became the largest private grain dealer on the east coast, with more than 50 locations in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. His company twice was honored as a one of North Carolina’s Top 100 Companies.

Webb was the charter president of the N.C. Grain Dealers Association and served on the board of the National Grain Dealers Association. His career spanned many changes in the grain business, and, with the advent of grain combines, he designed and built a state-of-the-art grain elevator. He was an innovator in the government storage era by being the first in the grain business to store grain in warehouses and on the ground.

“N.C. State University prepared my dad for the business world, and he had a deep appreciation for that,” said Dr. Rick Webb of Greenville, whose son, Tom, is a current CALS student in agricultural and resource economics. “It is an honor for our family to be here. … My dad’s love for N.C. State had no bounds.”

In tribute to Webb’s love of his alma mater and as a special thanks to the family, Woodson and Davenport presented Rick Webb (a former UNC-CH basketball player) and his family a framed No.1 Wolfpack basketball jersey with the name “Webb.”

“Rick, we want to fully embrace you as a member of the Wolfpack family,” Woodson said. “The conversion is now complete.”

And certainly Wolfpack devotee Fred Webb would have been pleased with the comments delivered by Yopp, as she took the podium to thank the Webb family for her scholarship.

Her father had been a Morehead Scholar at UNC-CH, Yopp said, and while she was also accepted there, “UNC was my back-up school,” as she waited for her acceptance from N.C. State.  In explaining to her back-up why she made the choice to go to Raleigh rather than Chapel Hill, she said, “I told them I’ll be attending the university where red means ‘Go!’”

Terri Leith

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