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Duong, Green and FBNS alumni create Gharst Food Science Leadership Award Endowment

At the heart of the Duong, Green and Gharst Food Science Leadership Award Endowment is this simple principle: Being successful in college is about more than just making good grades.

The leadership award, which recently attained endowment status, was established in 2009 by Drs. Tri Duong, Greg Gharst and Rodney Green — all alumni of the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences. According to the endowment agreement, the award recognizes undergraduate students exemplifying “outstanding future potential and initiative” in any area of Food, Bioprocessing or Nutrition Sciences at N.C. State.

“We want this scholarship to reward students with leadership qualities, students who do more than stay in their lane and study books,” says Gharst, who earned all three of his degrees from the FBNS Department: a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 1994, and master’s and doctoral degrees in food science in 2004 and 2007, respectively.

Gharst now works for the United States Food and Drug Administration in New York as director of microbiological sciences. He also is a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from Dec. 2008 to March 2010.

“We all believe it’s important to acknowledge dedication above and beyond the scope of coursework,” says Green, who earned a master’s degree in food science in 2004.

“So many scholarships don’t often recognize people who are taking on additional volunteer and leadership roles that may impact their ability to achieve certain GPAs. We want this award to go to more of a leadership, volunteering, culture-building type of person versus a purely academic respondent.”

Green, manager of research and development in the shelf-stable innovation team at Con-Agra Foods in Omaha, Neb., has been friends with Gharst and Duong since their days together at N.C. State. He says Gharst had the idea to create the award and approached Duong and him, and they jumped on board without hesitation.

“Greg wanted to honor us, and I thought that was really cool,” says Duong. “And then I thought there might be a way to give even more, so I tossed out the idea of an endowment. I certainly wouldn’t be able to afford the entire endowment on my own. If it wasn’t for getting together with these two guys to do this, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

Duong, who earned his food science doctoral degree in functional genomics from N.C. State in 2008, is an assistant professor in the Department of Poultry Science at Texas A&M University.

All three alumni held multiple leadership positions in the Food Science Club and Institute of Food Technologists Student Association during their time at N.C. State. And they each say that their experiences outside the classroom contributed to their individual successes just as much as their academic records.

“The Food Science Department really felt like family,” Duong says. “Being at N.C. State really opened up a lot of doors for me.”

Now in its fourth year, the program has given three $500 awards. The scholarship recipients also may be eligible for enrichment opportunities through the General H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center, including no-cost registration to attend the annual Shelton Leadership Forum; an invitation to apply for a position as a mentor at a nationally acclaimed Leadership Challenge Summer Institute for aspiring high school student leaders; and opportunities to participate as student ambassadors in selected university events and activities.

“There was just something about the department, the Food Science Club and the student IFT chapter that made for a really great overall experience as a student at N.C. State,” Green says. “It made me want to give back.”

— Suzanne Stanard