Carlson Endowment created to fund annual award for outstanding ARE dissertation

In 1969, when Dr. Gerald Carlson completed his doctoral work at the University of California-Davis, he was honored for that year’s Outstanding Dissertation in the American Agricultural Economics  Association. Now, 42 years later, Carlson and his wife, Barbara, are creating an endowment to fund a similar award to doctoral students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, N.C. State University, where Carlson spent 35 years as a faculty member. The Barbara E. and Gerald A. Carlson Endowment —  to fund the annual Gerald A. Carlson Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation Award in Agricultural and Resource Economics — was established in ceremonies April 29.

At the same time, the inaugural Carlson awards were presented to Dr. Keri Jacobs and Dr. Ying Zhu, honoring their outstanding dissertations in pursuit of their 2010 doctoral degrees from N.C. State.

Dr. Jon Brandt, head of the CALS Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE), presided at the event at the Clark Hall Atrium on the N.C. State campus. Also participating were Dr. Johnny Wynne, CALS dean; Dr. Ken Esbenshade, CALS director of Academic Programs; Dr. David Smith, director of the N.C. Agricultural Research Service; and Dr. Wally Thurman and Dr. Barry Goodwin of ARE.

Both Brandt and Wynne thanked the Carlsons for their generosity in creating the endowment. “Because there’s a similar award for outstanding Ph.D. dissertation at UC-Davis, the idea was in my head. I won best dissertation at UC-Davis and got the national award for best dissertation in 1969,” Gerald Carlson said in response. “Plus there’s an outstanding dissertation selection committee in ARE every year, so it [the new endowment] was a matter of rolling the two together.”

Carlson added that from his father, a potato farmer, and his wife’s father, a self-trained engineer, the couple learned to save money. “Plus I was lucky in the stock market,” he said, “so we had the funds to do this. We hope to have the endowment fully funded in five years.”

In the meantime, the Carlsons had provided the funds to present the first awards of a plaque and monetary stipend to Jacobs and Zhu, in recognition of the ARE Department’s outstanding Ph.D. dissertations for 2010.

At the endowment signing ceremony, Barbara and Gerald Carlson and their daughter, Sarah, (all seated) were joined by Dr. Ken Esbenshade, Dean Johnny Wynne, Dr. David Smith and Dr. Jon Brandt.

“Each year our department nominates students and their dissertations for the national award,” said Brandt. “These two, Dr. Keri Jacobs and Dr. Ying Zhu, were judged the best of the 13 to 15 we looked at this year.”

Jacobs, who is from Montecello, Iowa, received her 1996 B.A. in business administration and economics from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After receiving her 2010 Ph.D. in economics from N.C. State, she joined the economics faculty at Iowa State University as an assistant professor. The Carlson Award was presented to Jacobs by Dr. Wally Thurman, her major professor.  

Zhu, from Beijing, China, received her 2010 Ph.D. from N.C. State with a double major in economics and statistics, after earning her master’s degree in statistics from N.C. State and her bachelor’s degree in China. She is currently a research statistician at SAS Institute in Cary.

Her major professor, Dr. Barry Goodwin, presented the Carlson award to her. (Her major professor in statistics was Dr. Sujit K. Ghosh.)

Brandt noted that both of the recipients also had won the best thesis awards in their respective undergraduate programs.

“The Carlson Outstanding Ph.D. Dissertation Award will be given each year at about this time,” Brandt said. “There will be a plaque on the wall of the department on which the names of winners will be engraved, and it will be displayed so students can walk by and see a good incentive for their graduate work.”—Terri Leith

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