The career impacts and legacy of former North Carolina Speaker of the House Harold Brubaker were celebrated March 27 at a special event co-hosted by the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation Inc. and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University. Held at the Pavilions at the Angus Barn, the dinner and reception honoring Brubaker’s service to the state and the university was also a fund-raiser in support of the North Carolina FFA Foundation.
As part of the evening’s festivities, it was announced that more than $100,000 (towards a goal of $150,000) had been raised to fund resources for FFA members at the N.C. FFA Center at White Lake, including a leadership development program and a new girls’ dormitory.
FFA is a favorite cause for Brubaker, who participated in FFA from 1960 to 1967, was a national FFA officer and is a recipient of the FFA Lifetime Achievement Award. A native of Pennsylvania and graduate of Penn State University, Brubaker is also an N.C. State alumnus, with a CALS master’s degree in agricultural economics. He served in the N.C. House of Representatives from 1977 to 2012 and was the first and only Republican Speaker of the House in the 20th century.
Brubaker was joined by his wife, Geraldine, and sons, Jonathan and Justin, as more than 200 guests gathered at the Pavilions, an elegant and scenic lakeside venue at the world-famous Raleigh steakhouse, to honor him.
Among those attending and participating in the program were U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, N.C. Sen. Daniel Blue Jr. (also an FFA Lifetime Achievement Award winner), current N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, N.C. Rep. Julia Howard, N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson and CALS Dean Richard Linton. Also taking part were Deborah Johnson, executive director of the N.C. Pork Council and leader of FFA fund-raising efforts; Mark Fleming of Blue Cross/Blue Shield and David Powers of Reynolds American, representing the two leadership level donors; and the current state FFA officers.
Speaking of Brubaker’s many contributions to the state’s economy and the university, Woodson said, “He knows what N.C. State brings to agriculture and what agriculture brings to all of North Carolina,” and noted two key university projects supported by Brubaker.
“He sponsored legislation to help fund the Feed Mill Education Unit on Lake Wheeler Road. This funding leveraged almost $2 million in private support that led to the most modern research feed mill in the United States,” Woodson said. “Speaker Brubaker also led the effort to provide funding for the Beef Education Unit and animal nutrition facilities. The Beef Education Unit is a modern facility where hundreds of animal science and crop science students gain hands-on learning experience each year.”
Efforts like these enhance and support the state’s $77 billion agriculture and natural resources industry, of which animal agriculture is two-thirds, Woodson said. “Speaker Brubaker is a great example of how the legislative investment in a major research university pays off.”
CALS Dean Linton reiterated Woodson’s thanks to Brubaker and told the audience that Brubaker has been a “champion for agricultural education and the FFA in North Carolina for more than 20 years.”
In 1995, as speaker, Brubaker led efforts to transfer the FFA program from the Department of Public Instruction to N.C. State University, Linton said. “Since that time, FFA membership has increased from 26,000 students to more than 44,000, and nine other states have implemented similar leadership structures for their FFA programs.”
Linton then announced that the evening’s celebration had brought in more than $100,000 in support of FFA. Johnson accepted on behalf of FFA, along with Emma Cannon, FFA state president, and state vice presidents Morgan Barbour, Adam Byrd, Taylor Craig, Zack Davis and Ben Rice, who then introduced a video that they had written, produced and directed for the occasion.
In closing, Burr thanked all in attendance “for being part of tonight’s celebration of FFA and Speaker Brubaker.”— Terri Leith