Gifts from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Universal Leaf Tobacco Co. and Alliance One bring Collins endowment closer to $10 million goal

Sizeable donations from tobacco companies R.J. Reynolds, Universal Leaf and Alliance One have brought a recently established tobacco program endowment in N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences closer to its funding goal.

In April, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Dr. William K. Collins Sr. and Ann T. Collins and the N.C. Tobacco Foundation Inc. to create the Dr. William K. Collins Tobacco Agronomist Position in Research, Teaching and Extension. Also announced was a planned Dr. William K. Collins Distinguished Professorship endowment to be established in the N.C. State Endowment Board. At that time, the Collins family had given a generous $500,000 challenge to the rest of the tobacco family to raise the remaining resources.

In June, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson hosted a reception where CALS Dean Rich Linton announced that the challenge had garnered significant response – in the form of recent donations made to the Collins initiative and the $10 million campaign to create a Distinguished Professorship and fund a second tobacco agronomist position.

As of June 4, “We have raised $5,094,000 towards our $10 million goal for this much needed and worthwhile endeavor,” said Linton to the audience assembled at the Chancellor’s Residence on Centennial Campus. He brought news of a $500,000 commitment from the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative, as well as a list of $25,000+ contributors.

He then introduced some special presentations.

Universal Tobacco team with big check
Dean Rich Linton (bottom row, far left), Chancellor Randy Woodson (back, second from right) and Ann and Bill Collins (right) accept the donation presented by the team from Universal Leaf Tobacco.
Universal Tobacco team presents big check
Dean Rich Linton (third from left), Chancellor Randy Woodson (center) and Ann and Bill Collins (to Woodson’s right) accept the donation presented by the team from Alliance One.

First, Peter Sikkel, president and CEO of Alliance One, a leading independent leaf tobacco merchant, presented a check for $600,000 to the Collins effort.

Following was Universal Leaf Tobacco Co. Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Keith Brewer. Brewer presented a check for $1.125 million to the Collins campaign in fulfillment of a previously announced commitment made by Universal.

And being newly announced was a gift from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Donny McElveen, RJR vice president for leaf operations, presented a check for $1.5 million to the Collins endowment.

It was after working as an agronomist for R.J. Reynolds from 1963 to 1966 that Dr. William K. Collins joined the CALS faculty as an Extension specialist. In 1994 he retired as acting head of the Department of Crop Science. He is a world-leading tobacco production expert and international ambassador for the U.S. tobacco industry. A North Carolina native, he is a CALS alumnus who earned his N.C. State bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy and field crops; he received his Ph.D. in crop breeding from Iowa State University.

The establishment of tobacco program endowments in his name honors his lifetime contributions to the university and provides N.C. State with much-needed support to continue to lead research, extension and teaching in the specialized discipline of flue-cured tobacco production.

– Terri Leith    

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