Order of Long Leaf Pine and Distinguished Service Awards given at 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 award 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.

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. 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.

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 in Currituck County for 23 years and in 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.

— Terri Leith

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