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Order of Long Leaf Pine and Distinguished Service Awards are presented at College of Agriculture and Life Sciences foundations event

A state legislator, a county commissioner and a retired Extension-director-turned-community-volunteer were honored Nov. 10 during the joint meeting of the North Carolina Agriculture, Dairy and Tobacco foundations at N.C. State University. Sen. Richard Stevens, who represents the state’s 17th district in the General Assembly, and Commissioner James West, who represents Wake County’s fifth district, received Distinguished Service Awards. This year’s event also included a surprise presentation of the Governor of North Carolina’s “Order of the Long Leaf Pine” to former Forsyth County Extension Director Jerry Hardesty.

Dr. Johnny Wynne, dean of N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, presided during the luncheon awards event at the University Club. Dr. Randy Woodson, chancellor of N.C. State, addressed the foundations members and guests and joined Wynne in the awards presentations. Also participating was Britt Cobb, chief of staff of Gov. Beverly Perdue, who represented the governor in honoring Hardesty.

“Each year the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation presents one or more Distinguished Service Awards to individuals who have provided truly outstanding support of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and N.C. State University,” Wynne said. “We are very pleased this year to honor two individuals who provide great leadership and advocacy on behalf of our citizens and higher education in North Carolina.”

Stevens, a Wake County native, is serving his fourth term in the North Carolina Senate, where he serves as co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations on Education/Higher Education and Appropriations/Base Budget committees. A graduate of UNC-CH, he is a former chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees and a former instructor at N.C. State. He has served on the Yates Mill Associates board of directors and acted as contact for the Colonel W.W. and Emily Stevens Soil Conservation Scholarship/Fellowship Endowment, one of the larger endowments benefitting the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In 2000 Stevens was awarded the National Public Service Award, the American Society for Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration Awards. He is a Paul Harris Fellow in the Rotary Foundation.

Chancellor Randy Woodson addresses the group gathered at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences foundations luncheon.

Said Woodson, “Sen. Richard Stevens exemplifies what it means to serve the people of North Carolina and the 17th District.  He is a friend and advocate of N.C. State and agriculture and the life sciences in North Carolina, and we are glad to have him as our friend. Through his work with the Wake County Extension Service when he was Wake County Manager, to his and his wife, Jere’s, interest and appreciation for horticulture and the Master Gardener program, Richard understands the importance of agriculture to North Carolina.”

West, who is from Raleigh, is former director of county operations for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in adult and community college education from N.C. State and his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from N.C. A&T State University. Wynne called West “a tireless community leader who has provided unparalleled service to the citizens of our state and Wake County, both professionally and personally.” 

After retiring from N.C. State in 1995, West served on the Raleigh City Council and then as mayor pro-tem, prior to his current role as a Wake County Commissioner. He is the founder of the Wake County Collaborative Partnership in Excellence in Youth Development, a past chair of the Garner Schools Advisory Council and past president of the Fred A. Smith Elementary PTA. He also served on the Wake Health Services Inc. Capital Campaign committee. A recipient of the Leadership Award from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, West has been inducted into the Phi Delta Kappa and Gamma Sigma Delta Agriculture Honor societies.

“As former director of Country Operations for the Cooperative Extension Service, James West helped build what is absolutely the best extension service in the United States,” Woodson said. “We are fortunate to have James as a strong community leader in North Carolina. His honor today is indeed well-deserved.”

Wynne then turned the podium over to Cobb to present a previously unannounced award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which honors individuals for extraordinary service to their state, community contributions, career achievements and service to organizations.   

“There have been two great individuals honored today, and I’ve got one more,” Cobb said. “The highest honor a North Carolina governor can bestow is the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and I’d like to ask Jerry Hardesty to come forward.”

Hardesty of Winston Salem served as Extension director of Currituck County for 23 years and of Forsyth County for seven years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in animal industry and a master’s degree in education from N.C. State. After his retirement from Cooperative Extension, Hardesty worked with the North Carolina Pork Council as educational liaison. He also directed government relations for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina and held the same position for the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks. During the last 15 years, Hardesty has worked to obtain $24 million for Food Bank programs across the state.

Hardesty is a member of the N.C. 4-H Development Fund and N.C. Family and Consumer Sciences boards, assisting in fund raising for the state’s 4-H camps and for family programs. To provide youngsters the opportunities for new learning experiences, he and his wife, Martha, have established the Jerry and Martha Hardesty Camp Scholarship Endowment for the Eastern 4-H Center. They are also establishing an endowment to support the Family and Consumer Sciences Foundation. In 2007, he received the Outstanding Volunteer Award at the CALS donor recognition gala.

After thanking Cobb for sharing the special presentation with the CALS group, Wynne told Hardesty, “Jerry, congratulations to you and Martha for this recognition of your many efforts and support.”  — Terri Leith