J.C. Whitehurst Jr. of Greenville, a graduate of N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was honored Nov. 1 with the creation of an annual scholarship in his name. The career of Whitehurst, who passed away this past April and was the founder of Coastal AgroBusiness Inc., was celebrated during a signing ceremony as Coastal AgroBusiness established the J.C. Whitehurst Jr. Agricultural Scholarship in the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation Inc.
Fulfilling Whitehurst’s vision of enabling the success of the agricultural sector is one of his company’s primary goals. As a way to meet that goal, Coastal AgroBusiness is creating the new scholarship to recruit and reward agricultural and life sciences students. It thus seeks to help fill the pipeline of highly trained professionals for agribusiness and farming.
Family, friends and Coastal representatives, as well as one of the inaugural scholarship recipients, gathered for the ceremony hosted by CALS Dean Richard Linton in his Patterson Hall office. Annual donations from Coastal AgroBusiness will fund two merit-based $5,000 scholarships for undergraduate students enrolled in CALS each year.
The awards will be made to students pursuing degrees in one of the following areas: agricultural business management in the CALS Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics; plant and soil sciences in the Crop Science and Soil Science departments; an undergraduate entomology minor in the Department of Entomology; or a horticultural science major or minor in the Department of Horticultural Science. The scholarship will be awarded to residents of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, with the desire that the prospective recipients seek careers in the agricultural/agribusiness profession impacting those states.
Whitehurst, who received his CALS degree in agronomy in 1951 and began a career in agribusiness, founded Coastal Chemical Corp., now Coastal AgroBusiness, in 1953 and served as president and CEO until 1997 (when his son, Jim, took over as president) and continued to serve as chairman until his death. Celebrating its 60th year, Coastal distributes a full line of crop-protection products, seed, fertilizer, equipment, parts and technology. The company maintains close contact with land-grant institutions, such as N.C. State, Clemson and Virginia Tech, and is aligned with major manufacturers worldwide to stay on the leading edge of new technology, products and services.
Dean Linton described Whitehurst as a “pioneer in the agribusiness industry and crop development” and emphasized the importance of scholarships in “recruiting and retaining the best students so that they can make important changes in agriculture in the state, nationally and locally.”
Present to exemplify that point was inaugural scholarship recipient Whitney D. Phillips of Indian Trail, a CALS senior double major in horticulture and plant and soil science. Phillips, who graduates in December and hopes to attend N.C. State’s graduate school, said she wants to work in vegetable and fruit breeding and eventually teach at the university level.
“I want to make a difference in agriculture and plant breeding,” Phillips said, as she thanked Coastal and the Whitehurst family for their support.
Her co-recipient of the initial Whitehurst awards is Cameron Mitchell Davis of Seaboard, a senior in plant and soil science, who was unable to attend the event.
Also participating were Dr. Sam Pardue, associate CALS dean and director of Academic Programs; from Coastal AgroBusiness, Tony Griffin, Jim Pearce, Mike Seymour and Scott Griffin; and from the J.C. Whitehurst Jr. family, widow, Ann Whitehurst, son, J.C. Whitehurst III (Jim), and daughter, Helen Kirven.
“We are so excited to have this day come,” said Jim Whitehurst, as he thanked the team from Coastal for having the original idea to create the scholarship. “We all thought it was a wonderful idea to set up a scholarship in honor of a guy who was a visionary in agribusiness and who loved agriculture and N.C. State, and who was a mentor to all of us and led us over the last 60 years.”
Added his Coastal colleague Jim Pearce, “This is a fitting way to honor someone who worked to empower and help bright and upcoming minds in agriculture.”—Terri Leith