Luginbuhl launches two scholarship endowments at retirement celebration

Dr. Geraldine Luginbuhl, professor of microbiology and assistant director of Academic Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, retired from N.C. State University in July after 37 years as a faculty member. Yet Luginbuhl — noted for her excellence as teacher, Microbiology Club adviser and director of the College Honors Program – does not intend to retire from contributing to the education of N.C. State University students.

On Sept. 1, at a retirement and endowment celebration at JC Raulston Arboretum, she designated the Thomas Jefferson Scholars and the CALS Department of Microbiology as beneficiaries of her estate by creating two scholarship endowments.

The Gerry Luginbuhl Thomas Jefferson Scholars Endowment and the Department of Microbiology Scholarship Award Endowment were established in the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation Inc. at the event. They will be funded through charitable gift annuities from Luginbuhl. 

The Thomas Jefferson Scholars Program is the dual-degree program of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at N.C. State University. Scholars major in one of the biological or agricultural sciences and in one of the humanities or social sciences. It was the first dual-degree scholars program created at N.C. State and has guided more than 150 students in its first 25 years. Luginbuhl served as administrative liaison for the program from 2007 to 2011. The endowment will support scholarships for the students and/or program enhancements, such as support for study or service abroad, research projects or other activities.

Luginbuhl (left) greets friends at her retirement celebration at JC Raulston Arboretum's McSwain Education Center.

In creating the Department of Microbiology Scholarship Award Endowment, Luginbuhl’s goal is to strengthen the recruitment and support of outstanding undergraduate students in the department. At the time of the signing of the agreement, this endowment was fully funded, but upon her passing, funds from Luginbuhl’s charitable gift annuity will go to the endowment, allowing for an eventual increased number of and/or larger scholarship awards annually. At least one scholarship award per year will be given in Luginbuhl’s name.

A microbiologist whose research focused on a respiratory pathogen in turkeys, Luginbuhl came to the College as an assistant professor in 1974, following her post-doctoral work at Duke University. She received her Ph.D. in bacteriology and immunology from UNC-Chapel Hill, after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford University.

At N.C. State she went on to become professor, then interim head of the Department of Microbiology. Among her career honors are election to the University Academy of Outstanding Teachers in 1979 and recognition as the Alumni Distinguished Professor of Undergraduate Teaching in 1990. In 2003, Luginbuhl also received the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award.

Gerry Luginbuhl is joined by her daughter, Sarah, and husband, Jim.

Dr. Eric Miller, head of the CALS Microbiology Department, hosted the September celebration event attended by Luginbuhl’s husband, Dr. Jim Luginbuhl, N.C. State professor emeritus of psychology; daughter, Sarah, a microbiology teaching technician; and numerous friends, colleagues and former students. Also taking part in the ceremonies were Dr. Johnny Wynne, CALS dean; Dr. Ken Esbenshade, CALS associate dean and director of Academic Programs; Dr. Leo Parks, microbiology professor emeritus; Dr. Gerald Elkan, microbiology professor emeritus and faculty adviser to the Thomas Jefferson Scholars; and student Michael Atkins,  a current Jefferson Scholar. 

Parks remarked that the College now will need to hire three people to fill Luginbuhl’s shoes and then recalled her important activities in establishing the Microbiology Club in the department and in building the department itself. “Gerry has been a major force in the department,” he said. “She took this nascent program of microbiology and nurtured it and brought in activities and enhancements to students’ learning.”

Friends, colleagues and former students gathered to congratulate and thank Luginbuhl.

Esbenshade said, “I think it’s a testament that someone would get to this point and also think of ways of giving back.”

Then, describing her willingness to assist in teacher workshops and serve on campus committees, he said, “The word ‘no’ is not in Gerry’s vocabulary. She’s delivered everything we’ve asked her to deliver. She remade the Honors Program and elevated the stature of the Undergraduate Research Symposium. And she took on the Jefferson Scholars Program and did a wonderful job of managing it.”

Elkan told the group of Luginbuhl’s many valuable contributions to the Jefferson Program, and he particularly praised her concept of the Jefferson Scholars Alumni Society. “With much work she put together an alumni society that has really changed the Jefferson Scholars,” in terms of raising funds and student and parental involvement, he said.

Atkins, speaking of the impact Luginbuhl has had on him and fellow Jefferson Scholars, said, “She was always there when we needed her.”

Jefferson Scholar Michael Atkins presents a memory jar to Luginbuhl.

And as he presented her a memory jar filled with notes from her students and colleagues, he told Luginbuhl, “You’re definitely the best.” – Terri Leith

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