When NC State University Professor Emeritus Dr. George Kriz and his wife, Rhoda Kriz, both retired from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1999, they had already created the George J. and Rhoda W. Kriz Faculty Study Leave Endowment in the college. Now more than 15 years later, the Krizes are not only updating that endowment, but they are creating three more to support CALS faculty and their activities.
On Feb. 20, at a signing ceremony and reception hosted by Dr. Steve Lommel, CALS associate dean for research, the couple endorsed four memoranda of understanding for a large estate gift of $4.5 million to establish permanent endowment funds. These will benefit CALS faculty and the N.C. Agricultural Research Service (NCARS) and will fund a distinguished professorship in the CALS Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE), as well as several traditional agriculture distinguished professorships.
Addressing the more than 50 guests in attendance, including the Kriz family, Lommel said of the four endowments, “This is an important announcement for the college but particularly for research. George and Rhoda know where the university needs funding.
“We believe this commitment is the largest by former faculty and staff in the history of CALS.”
The first agreement, between the Krizes and the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc., created the George J. and Rhoda W. Kriz Faculty Enrichment Endowment, to be used for faculty salary supplements and/or start-up equipment for new faculty members; it is intended to be a means to attract stellar faculty members. The second agreement, also with the foundation, for the George J. and Rhoda W. Kriz Faculty Study Leave Endowment, renews the prior such endowment to provide funds for study leaves for CALS faculty members to enhance their research effectiveness.
The third and fourth memoranda of understanding were between the Krizes and the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of NC State University. These established the George J. and Rhoda W. Kriz Distinguished Professorship in Biological and Agricultural Engineering, as well as the creation of distinguished professorships, each called the George J. and Rhoda W. Kriz Distinguished Professorship, to be awarded to professors working within traditional agriculture departments. Such CALS departments include Agricultural and Extension Education; Agricultural and Resource Economics; Animal Science; BAE; Crop Science; Entomology; Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences; Horticultural Science; Plant and Microbial Biology; Prestage Poultry Science; and Soil Science.
George Kriz retired as CALS’ associate director of the NCARS, and Rhoda Kriz was program assistant in the college’s Plant Disease and Insect Clinic in the Plant Pathology Department. George served from 1965 to 1973 in the BAE Department, where he was associate head of Extension, before moving into CALS administration. He started the animal waste program at NC State and facilitated field days at various research stations for numerous commodities and farming programs. He retired as the longest-serving associate director of agricultural research at a land-grant university.
During the signing ceremony the couple also made a “big check” presentation to Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, CALS crop scientist, the 2015 recipient of the Kriz Faculty Study Leave award. Schroeder-Moreno, who directs the college’s agroecology education program, plans to use the funds to travel to Croatia to evaluate the agroecology education program and research there.
“I know this will be a life-changing opportunity,” said Schroeder-Moreno as she thanked the Krizes. “What I learn there will change my research and teaching and what I can bring back to my students here.”
Also there to thank the couple was CALS soil scientist Dr. Dean Hesterberg, past recipient of the study leave award. Hesterberg used the leave time to work in Chicago with an Argonne National Laboratory physicist, “who taught me to do analyses that are not common for soil scientists,” and at Duke University, where he wrote a book chapter. The study leave “changed the trajectory of my career. I reinvented myself, and I’m doing things now I had not done before, sharing new techniques with students and colleagues,” he said, as he told the Krizes, “Thank you for the time to accomplish that. It was the best six months of my career.”
George Kriz said in response, “We’re pleased the endowment has grown to be something worthwhile to receive. Recipients have told us of the value of getting away and reinvigorating themselves.”
Added Rhoda, “We do think it is important for the faculty to take study leave, and we love hearing their stories,” as she turned to Schroeder-Moreno and said, “I’d love to go to Croatia with you!”
Other speakers included Brian Sischo, vice chancellor for University Advancement; Dr. Garry Grabow, interim head of BAE; and Keith Oakley, CALS assistant dean and director of CALS Advancement.
Grabow particularly emphasized George Kriz’s “get it done” personality and said Kriz was well known throughout the BAE department as a people person who applied a high level of analytical skill to every pursuit, determined to get things done right. Grabow said the new BAE Distinguished Professorship is “important, because what we really need is faculty support. With this, we can retain and attract high-quality faculty.”
Sischo also noted “the things this planned gift will support in perpetuity,” saying, “days like this are important in the life of the university.”
Oakley hoped that the Krizes’ generosity will inspire others. “They are setting a bar that is very high, one that we hope others will breach, “he said.
“To be a great college, university and research service, we have to have this kind of support.” — Terri Leith