CALS benefactors recognized for their support

Benefactors of N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were recently recognized by the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association at the organization’s national meeting in State College, Pa.

The Ruby C. McSwain NAADA Outstanding Philanthropist Award was given to Bill and Marsha Prestage and the Prestage family. Dr. William K. Collins was named a 2014 recipient of the NAADA Volunteer Service Award. More than 200 representatives from land-grant universities attended.

In October 2013, the Prestage family made a historic $10 million gift to name the Prestage Family Department of Poultry Science at N.C. State University.  The gift ensures that NC State will continue to excel in the research, extension and educational mission required to support the growth and sustainability of the poultry industry with a specific focus on turkey physiology, nutrition and immunology.

Dr. Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Dr. Sam Pardue, director of academic programs for the college, presented the award to Bill and Marsha, their son Ron and daughter-in-law Cindi, and their daughter Katie Prestage Poplin. All three Prestage sons, Ron, Scott and John, are alumni of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The award was named for Ruby C. McSwain, a generous benefactor to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, N.C. Cooperative Extension and N.C. State. The McSwain Award recognizes an individual or individuals with a record of sustained giving to support agriculture, agricultural higher education, Cooperative Extension or land-grant universities. This award also recognizes an individual’s role as an advocate for agriculture and natural resources and for philanthropy in community organizations, religious institutions, art, environment and social services.

The Prestages embrace philanthropy and community service as a part of their family and corporate values.  The Food Bank of North Carolina, American Cancer Society, United Way, Ducks Unlimited, Sampson County Regional Medical Center, local schools and community colleges, the Arts Council, community theater, county agricultural fairs, civic groups and area hospitals have all benefited from their leadership and generous support.

At N.C. State, they are generous benefactors and advocates of the FFA Foundation, the College of Veterinary Medicine and the N.C. Agricultural Foundation’s Nickels for Know-How program.  They not only provide financial support, but invest their time as well. For example, Dr. Ron Prestage serves as a member of the N.C. State Board of Trustees.

Linton also presented the Volunteer Service Award to Bill Collins. Earlier this year, Collins and his wife, Ann, kicked off a $10-million fundraising challenge with a pledge of $500,000 to support the creation of the new William K. Collins Tobacco Agronomist Position Endowment and the Collins Distinguished Chair in Research, Teaching and Extension.  On June 4, more than 200 of Bill Collins’ closest friends gathered at the N.C. State chancellor’s residence to celebrate the announcement of $5.1 million in commitments thus far and to rally to reach the $10 million goal.

Collins is a legend in the field of flue-cured tobacco. During his six decades at N.C. State, he has distinguished himself in many ways.

Through his work as a research and extension specialist, Collins literally wrote the book on tobacco production.  Collins’ publication Principles of Flue-cured Tobacco Production has been translated into five languages and continues to be used as a resource manual in all the major tobacco-producing countries in the world. Collins has been recognized as the single person most identified with flue-cured tobacco worldwide.

His influence also extends through the hundreds of students, Extension agents and fellow faculty peers he has trained or mentored, who are now providing leadership in academia; biotechnology; human, plant and animal health fields; ag and food industries; and all levels of local, state and federal government.

His creation and visionary directorship of the Philip Morris Agricultural Leadership Development Program, which evolved into the current N.C. Agricultural Leadership Development Program, helped create one of the country’s premier training grounds for young agriculturists and agribusiness executives.

After “retiring” for the second time from N.C. State in 2005, Collins joined the CALS Office of College Advancement as senior director of development, raising funds for and managing the CALS Agricultural Leadership Development Program, and continuing to steward relationships with the tobacco industry. Though he no longer holds a paid position, Collins has helped raise millions of dollars since joining the Advancement team.

He has also served as a board member and past president of the N.C. State Alumni Association Forever Club and as a member of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service Foundation Board, and he continues to serve as a founding member of the N.C. Agricultural and Life Sciences Research Board.  He and wife, Ann, were campaign leaders for the Hunt Library initiative.

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