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Scholarship to honor innovative agribusinessman

MOREHEAD CITY, NC – The late Livio Ferruzzi, an agricultural business entrepreneur and innovator with a global reach and local presence, was honored Dec. 8 when family, friends and associates gathered at the Center for Marine Science and Technology (CMAST) to establish an N.C. State University scholarship endowment in his name.

The merit-based Livio Ferruzzi Scholarship in Agriculture will support selected College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students who are pursuing degrees in crop science, food science, soil science, horticultural science or agricultural business management.

Students who receive the scholarship will receive financial support to help with college expenses and to allow them to travel to participate in conferences, meetings, research projects and training relevant to their studies.

The award is a fitting tribute to Ferruzzi because he had a passion for agriculture as well as understanding of the value of education, explained his son Dr. Mario Ferruzzi, now a food science faculty member at Purdue University. Before Mario entered graduate school, he worked for two summers at the N.C. State University Seafood Lab, which is housed at CMAST.

Mario noted that the elder Ferruzzi believed that it was important to “cultivate your own” – hence the requirement that the scholarship be awarded only to North Carolina residents. At the same time, Livio recognized that agriculture is now a global enterprise, and that’s why the scholarship will give recipients the chance to travel nationally or internationally.

“Agriculture is not a local thing alone,” Mario said. “It is local, but it is global as well.”

And Livio Ferruzzi embodied that: A native of Italy, he settled in Carteret County in 1974 as part of the Gruppo Ferruzzi to develop the 40,000-acre Open Grounds Farm, the largest farm east of the Mississippi River. He went on to hold several roles within the company, developing and managing millions of acres in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Italy, France, England and the former Soviet Union.

In 1994, Ferruzzi left the Groupo Ferruzzi to establish the private firm Worldwide Agricultural Consultants, providing his expertise to global agricultural and food industries. Since 2000, he continued professional associations with FerSam Holding. Ferruzzi died March 4.

Ferruzzi Family and Friends
Livio Ferruzzi's wife, Giulia, signs the endowment agreement as (from left) Claud Wheatly, Mario Ferruzzi and Carlo Sama look on.

The scholarship endowment bearing Ferruzzi’s name will be made possible through gifts from friends and associates. Signing the endowment agreement during the Dec. 8 ceremony were Ferruzzi’s wife, Giulia; son Mario; business partner Carlo Sama; and friend and associate Claud R. Wheatly. Ferruzzi’s son Giulio could not attend the ceremony but signed the agreement earlier.

Representing the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were Dean Johnny C. Wynne; Dr. Kenneth Esbenshade, associate dean and director of academic programs; and department heads Dr. Jon Brandt of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Dr. Chris Daubert of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, and Dr. John Dole of Horticultural Science. Dr. Michael Wagger of Crop Science and Soil Science could not participate but endorsed the agreement before the ceremony.

When Esbenshade thanked the family and donors, he noted that the scholarship they were creating will help ensure that deserving future N.C. State students will have the opportunity to get the kind of education they need in the global marketplace.

“Today we are trying to get students beyond the borders of North Carolina and outside the country borders because we know that in this day and age we are in a global environment,” Esbenshade said. “Educating young people and watching them grow in their potential is one of the most rewarding experiences that one can have. And contributing to that is a noble exercise. And this is what we are talking about here today.”

While Esbenhade and others from N.C. State thanked the donors, attorney and family friend Claud Wheatly commented on Livio’s leading the way among farmers when it came to employing modern agricultural practices. The scholarship endowment creates a lasting legacy for an innovative, visionary businessman, he said.

“As we walk through life, it’s like walking through sand. The tide will erase our footsteps,” Wheatly noted. But Livio’s footsteps, because of his life’s work and now the scholarship endowment, “will be in cement.”

– Dee Shore

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