Dr. Jon F. Ort died suddenly April 4 at his home in New Hill. Ort, 63, retired from N.C. State University in 2010 as associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (CES). He also served as the university’s assistant vice chancellor for Extension, Engagement and Economic Development.
In his 15 years as CES director, Ort led the way in ensuring that citizens in rural, suburban and urban communities had access to the research-based knowledge of N.C. State University. He was instrumental in government relations efforts that ensured that the state’s citizens maintain direct access to public universities through Cooperative Extension.
Under Ort’s watch, North Carolina Cooperative Extension emerged as a leader in educational and applied research programs for alternative agricultural crops and enterprises, childhood nutrition and physical activity, school-age care and disaster preparedness. His emphasis on partnerships, entrepreneurship and results-oriented programming allowed Cooperative Extension to sustain a network of some 1,300 staff members and upwards of 80,000 volunteers and 20,000 advisers, making 2.5 million face-to-face contacts annually to enhance the state’s economy, environment and quality of life. Beyond North Carolina, he was a leader for Extension at the regional and national levels.
Born in Bryan, Ohio, on March 26, 1948, he attended The Ohio State University, where he received three degrees, a 1972 bachelor’s degree in zoology and a 1976 master’s and 1979 Ph.D. in poultry nutrition. He came to N.C. State in 1979 as a faculty member in the CALS Department of Poultry Science. He was CALS assistant director of Academic Programs and director of the Agricultural Institute from 1989 to 1991 and assistant dean for administration from 1991 to 1995, before becoming associate dean and CES director in 1995. He served as assistant vice chancellor from 2002 until his retirement.
Among numerous awards and professional recognitions, he won the Agricultural Institute Outstanding Faculty Member award in 1980, 1981 and 1982; Outstanding Teacher Award, Academy of Outstanding Teachers, at N.C. State in 1984 and 1986; the Meritorious Service Award, African-American Science & Health Society, N.C. State, 1989; and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Foundation Service of Excellence honor in 1998.
He leaves his father, Lewis Ort; his stepson, Brad Thompson, and his wife, Cristi; his daughters, Katie and Hunter Ort; their mother, Debbie Ort; and many close family members and friends. He was an avid hunter, boating enthusiast, talented musician and a former high-school athlete, who enjoyed travelling with his family and spending time with his mother and father.
A visitation was held on April 7, with the funeral service at Cary Presbyterian on April 8 and burial at Apex Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Dr. Jon Ort Family Scholarship Award, Box 7645 NCSU, Raleigh, N.C. 27695.