Avid apiculture students, master beekeepers are among late professor’s legacies

Dr. John Thomas Ambrose — a popular College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor, NC State University administrator and bee authority – passed away in January after a short battle with brain cancer. He was 70.

Ambrose joined the College’s entomology faculty in 1975 as an extension specialist and researcher in apiculture, or beekeeping. Initially, Ambrose focused on pollination biology and the social behavior of honeybees, but his research expanded over time to include a wide range of issues related to bee biology, production and health.

Ambrose also was responsible for initiating one of the nation’s earliest, strongest and largest Master Beekeepers Program. The program, launched in 1983, is designed to teach beekeepers to train others. Sponsored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the volunteer program has enrolled thousands and served as a model that many other states used in developing similar beekeeping programs.

Ambrose also taught basic and advanced apiculture courses to more than 5,000 students. His introductory course proved particularly popular, and he developed a distance education version of the course in the 1990s.

Over the course of his career, Ambrose received numerous teaching awards, including being inducted into the university’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers and receiving the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award.

In 2000, he was promoted to the position of assistant vice provost of undergraduate affairs and director of the university’s First Year College. Twelve years later, he began a three-year phased retirement program, returning to the Department of Entomology.

At the time of Ambrose’s death, he was president of the state Beekeepers Association, from which he’d received the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award. One of the accomplishments he was most proud of was chairing the association’s Zoo Committee, which raised more than $275,000 to create the honey bee exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo.

Ambrose held a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Virginia. He then served three years in the U.S. Navy. He went on to serve in the Naval Reserves for many years, retiring with the rank of captain. Ambrose continued his education at Cornell University, where he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in entomology.

He was also the subject of Perspectives‘ first College Profile, in Spring 2001.

Ambrose died Jan. 8, 2015. He is survived by his wife, Judith; daughter, Carolina; son, Zach; Zach’s wife, Jill Wright; and their children, Catherine and John Ambrose.



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