“Bridging the past to the future” was the theme when the boards of foundations supporting N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences convened for a particularly special and historic joint meeting on April 10. The day’s schedule expanded to include meetings of members of as many as 11 foundation boards. They were among the nearly 300 attendees gathered at the University Club for a luncheon celebration honoring three former CALS deans, Dr. Durward Bateman, Dr. Jim Oblinger and Dr. Johnny Wynne. Festivities included the unveiling of a large plaque, in honor of the distinguished history of CALS leadership, to be displayed in Patterson Hall.
The day’s schedule of meetings for members of the N.C. Agricultural, Tobacco and Dairy foundations was expanded to include annual meetings of the boards of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Foundation, Extension and Community Association Foundation, Family and Consumer Sciences Foundation, 4-H Foundation and the N.C. Agricultural and Life Sciences Research Foundation. Also taking part were members of the boards of the CALS Alumni and Friends Society, JC Raulston Arboretum and the FFA Foundation.
CALS Dean Richard Linton, who was attending his first CALS foundations meeting, said, “This is a great day of celebration, honoring the leadership of three former deans of the College.” He said he felt “tremendously blessed” to be the dean of CALS and to follow on the paths blazed by the previous deans. He also emphasized the contributions made by the wives of the deans, Shirley Bateman, Diana Oblinger and Jackie Wynne, as well as his wife, Sally Linton.
Bateman, Oblinger and Wynne were then paid tribute in video testimonials, after which they were presented plaques commemorating CALS milestones and accomplishments during their tenures, followed by brief remarks from each.
Jim Wilder, retired president of the N.C. Soybean Producers Association Inc., told about Bateman’s leadership as the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences became the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He alluded to activities emblazoned on the plaque presented to Bateman: He emphasized collaboration and interdisciplinary work, life sciences research and more basic science in traditional agricultural departments. Bateman also encouraged more joint appointments across functions and program development across departments and other units within the University. The result was better service to students and clientele, as well as advances in knowledge and greater opportunities for external funding.
And Wilder particularly mentioned Bateman’s skill as “an avid full-time fisherman.”
Bateman, who served as dean from 1986 to 1997, thanked the audience and said that the College has “the greatest support of clientele groups of all the schools of agriculture and life sciences in the United States.” He thanked Oblinger and Wynne, who had served as his associate deans, for their contributions during his tenure, while acknowledging the support of his wife throughout his career.
“We can take pride in what we have accomplished as a college of agriculture and life sciences and look forward to Dean Linton extending all of this,” said Bateman.
In the next video testimonial, Lawrence Davenport, past chair and member of the N.C. State Board of Trustees, spoke eloquently of the programs begun by Jim Oblinger when he was CALS associate dean for Academic Programs and of how he developed the CALS Alumni and Friends Society and was the creator of the annual CALS Tailgate, now the largest annual tailgate event at the university. As dean, Oblinger helped lead efforts in support of a $3.1 billion higher education bond issue in North Carolina.
“Without Jim Oblinger, that bond would never have become a reality,” said Davenport, who also noted the dean’s initiation of the CALS magazine Perspectives and his expansion of the College’s presence on Centennial Campus. Speaking of Oblinger’s work as university provost and chancellor, Davenport listed the growth of federal grants and patents to the university during his leadership, but said Oblinger’s No. 1 accomplishment was the Campaign for Excellence that raised $1.36 billion.
“Jim was born to lead and leadership was his greatest attribute,” said Davenport. “N.C. State was fortunate to have two decades of service from Jim Oblinger.”
Upon receiving his plaque, Oblinger said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Getting the three of us together is special for all of us.”
Oblinger, who served as dean from 1997 to 2003, recalled that even before he came to N.C. State and CALS, he had become aware of the quality of programs at the university and how it successfully integrates teaching, research and extension – “yes, the land-grant mission,” he said. He spoke of the university’s “top quality faculty, motivated students, dedicated staff and loyal alumni.”
“There is not another place like this, the way it comes together,” he said. “And this place will continue to do it.”
Among CALS achievements led by Oblinger and mentioned on his plaque are that the higher education bond issue allowed the construction of a Beef Educational Unit at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory, as well as greenhouses and the Partners III building on the Centennial Campus. In addition, the College established the Genome Research Laboratory and the Toxicology Building on Centennial Campus.
Larry Wooten, president of the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation Inc., paid tribute to Wynne in the third video presentation, extolling Wynne’s support of the state’s agriculture, helping farmers and promoting the industry though the work of the land-grant institution.
“Johnny Wynne is North Carolina through and through,” Wooten said.
“I always looked to him to provide a practical, pragmatic and reasonable voice,” he said. “The farmers of North Carolina are better because of Johnny Wynne’s leadership in improving their lives and livelihoods.”
Wynne served as dean from 2004 to 2012. His plaque notes that, during his tenure, a significant project was the Plants for Human Health Institute on the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. The College’s Lake Wheeler Road Field Laboratory added the Poultry and Swine teaching facilities, Feed Mill, Turfgrass Research Lab and a student farm. The new milking parlor was built during this time, and the College developed an Equine Educational Unit on Reedy Creek Road. The College also established new foundations to emphasize fund-raising for research and Cooperative Extension. And Wynne reached out to stakeholders with the establishment of a commodity relations office.
Thanking the group, Wynne said, “I followed two great leaders and just made sure the train kept moving on the tracks.”
He acknowledged the support of faculty, staff, students and the administrative team in the success of the College during his time as dean and said that the mission of CALS was always his goal. “You’re only as great as the people you work with,” he said. “I look forward to working with Rich Linton as he makes it an even greater college of agriculture and life sciences.”
The luncheon event closed with the unveiling of an artist’s rendering of the Patterson Hall display. As board members returned to meetings, the deans headed to Patterson to unveil and dedicate the actual display, after which they were given a tour the new James B. Hunt Jr. Library on Centennial Campus. The afternoon was capped off with a return to the University Club for a CALS faculty and staff reception in the deans’ honor, and that evening the three and their wives were hosted for dinner at the home of Dean Linton. – Terri Leith