Charles Suggs, Pam Marrone and Maj. Gen. Timothy Peppe are this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award winners for NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). They were honored Saturday, Sept. 18, during a ceremony at NC State’s Close-King Indoor Practice Facility. CALS also honored the 2020 Distinguished Alumni award recipient Jimmy Gentry.

All alumni award recipients represent the fulfillment of the promise of our land-grant mission in academics, research and extension. Their professional achievements and service to NC State and its communities exemplify the extraordinary possibility of achievement to current students who will become future industry leaders.

Gentry is a Statesville, North Carolina, resident and president of the North Carolina Grange. Since being named NC State Grange president in 2003, and later selected to chairman of the National Grange Board of Directors, Gentry has been one of the most influential and dedicated advocates for North Carolina agriculture. He serves on the boards of the N.C. Agricultural Foundation, the 4-H Development Fund and the N.C. FFA Foundation. He also serves on the N.C. Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation and the N.C. Agricultural Consortium. 

Gentry is a 2013 N.C. FFA Lifetime Achievement awardee and a recipient of the Honorary State FFA Degree. He knows the importance of getting youth involved in agricultural organizations, and his philanthropic commitment and volunteerism with youth programs have greatly impacted the lives of young people, ensuring that the legacy of North Carolina agriculture continues with the next generation.

Suggs is a Whiteville, North Carolina, native who has received three degrees in agricultural engineering from NC State and has supported the university for more than 60 years. After graduating, he held a number of positions in the field before returning to NC State, where he served as faculty for 40 years until his retirement in 1993. 

One of his greatest contributions to the industry was the development of the world’s first tobacco leaf harvester utilizing the patented rubber leaf stripper, which is widely employed on commercial harvesters today. In 1993, Suggs and his wife established the Charles W. and Jane P. Suggs Scholarship Endowment. In 2018, they continued their legacy with the creation of the first named professorship in the department’s history, the Charles W. Suggs Distinguished Professorship in Biological and Agricultural Engineering Endowment.

Marrone is the executive chairperson and partner of Primary BioAg Innovations and Global BioAg Linkages. An industry thought leader and serial entrepreneur, Marrone has founded three successful start-up companies– Entotech, Inc., AgraQuest and Marrone Bio Innovations. For more than a decade, her companies have supported CALS programs, faculty and students. Marrone and her husband, Mick Rogers, continue to invest in the future at CALS, most recently with a naming gift to the new NC State Plant Sciences building. 

She is an alumni-elected trustee of Cornell University, treasurer of the Association for Women in Science and board member of the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists. She was the Sacramento Chamber’s 2001 Businesswoman of the Year, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 2001 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient and a 2003 recipient of UC Davis’ College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Award of Distinction. Marrone cares deeply about helping women in science, especially budding bioscience entrepreneurs who are following in her footsteps, and she dedicates her time to doing so.

Peppe retired as a major general in the U.S. Air Force after a 33-year military career. He became a corporate lead executive for Northrup Grumman and an independent defense consultant. Maj. Gen. Peppe is passionate about developing future leaders, and as such, created three NC State scholarship endowments–the Dr. Isadore and Cynthia Peppe Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences Scholarship; the Tim and RJ Peppe Military Leadership Scholars Endowment and the Cynthia G. Peppe Scholarship Endowment in the NC State Veterinary Medicine Foundation, which will support NC State students for generations to come. Philanthropy is part of his definition of leadership and giving back to the communities and institutions that helped make him the person he is today is a lifelong priority.

Outstanding Alumni Honored

The CALS Alumni and Friends Society also presented Outstanding Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni awards, which recognize excellence and the achievements of former students in their careers and communities. Chosen by their academic departments, the 2021 winners are:

Tommy Herring is president of Hog Slat Inc. in Newton Grove, North Carolina. He is a 1978 graduate of NC State, where he received a degree in both livestock management and agriculture equipment technology.

Weston McCorkle is an agricultural programs specialist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). He graduated from NC State with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural extension education with a minor in animal science and a master’s degree in adult education.

Shawn Harding is president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. He graduated from NC State’s Agricultural Institute in 1987 and spent 30 years working at his farm—Southside Farms—in eastern North Carolina. 

Donny Lassiter of Lassiter Family Farms, a multi-generation farm in northeastern North Carolina, received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management and a master’s degree in extension education from NC State.

Elsa Youngsteadt is an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at NC State. She received her master’s degree in biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and later came to NC State to pursue a Ph.D. in entomology. Her current research focuses on urbanization and climate change.

Rafael Muñoz-Carpena is a professor of hydrology and environmental modeling at the University of Florida. Muñoz-Carpena earned his doctorate in agricultural engineering with a minor in water resources from NC State in 1993.

Harold Coble is the president and chief executive officer at Coble Agronomics. He came to NC State to study applied mathematics, but decided to get back to his roots in crop science. He graduated from NC State with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in crop science in 1965.

Douglas Anspaugh is the consumer safety strategies team leader at BASF Crop Protection in Research Triangle Park. Anspaugh earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from Purdue University and later went on to NC State, earning both his master’s degree and a doctorate in insecticide toxicology.

Katie Maloney is a three-time NC State University graduate, earning her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 2007, her master’s degree in food science and nutrition in 2008 and her Ph.D. in food science in 2011. Maloney is the technical business development manager at Novozymes.

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Kathie Kalmowitz received her master’s degree in ornamental horticulture from Clemson University and her doctorate in horticultural science from NC State. Kalmowitz is active in her community, currently serving on the board of advisors and volunteering at the JC Raulston Arboretum. She also volunteers regularly with the Interfaith Food Shuttle Farm in Raleigh.

Chad Benton is the CALS Alumni and Friends Society president and pursued his bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and biological sciences at NC State. As an undergraduate, Benton was selected for a contractor position with BASF Plant Science, which ultimately led to a full-time position in 2005. In 2015, he was honored with the BASF Research Achievement Award. 

Jacob Traverse is a three-time NC State graduate, holding an undergraduate degree in botany, a masters in microbial biotechnology and a Master of Business Administration from the Poole College of Management. He currently serves as director of membership development at The Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences.

Donald McIntyre is an adjunct professor in NC State’s Prestage Department of Poultry Science, and a part-time consultant at DRM Consulting. McIntyre earned his undergraduate degrees in poultry science and animal science as well as a doctorate in physiology from NC State.

Outstanding Young Alumni Recognized

Justin Fix is director of business development and genetic improvement at Acuity Swine in Carlyle, Illinois. He earned both his master’s degree and doctorate in swine breeding and genetics from NC State.

Lendy Johnson received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in agricultural teacher education from NC State and is now the director of organization at North Carolina Farm Bureau.

Aaron Blackmon is a 2017 graduate of the Agricultural Institute where he earned his associate of applied science degree in livestock and poultry management. He is currently the herdsman at Reedy Branch Farms and a junior in the agricultural business management program at NC State.

Bethany Barnes Allison is the regional sales manager–U.S. East for Nufarm, one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of seeds and crop protection solutions. Allison received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management with a concentration in marketing in 2012 from NC State.

Erin McKenney is an assistant professor and director of undergraduate programs in the department of applied ecology at NC State. In 2009 she earned her master’s degree in animal science at NC State.

Deepak Keshwani is an associate professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Keshwani earned his Ph.D. in biological and agricultural engineering from NC State.

Colby Moorberg earned his master’s degree in 2010 from NC State and went on to earn his doctorate in 2014. Moorberg currently serves as an associate professor of soil science at Kansas State University.

Joseph Roberts is assistant professor of turfgrass pathology and nematology extension specialist at Clemson University. He received his bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences and chemistry at NC State. In 2010, he earned his Ph.D. in plant pathology from NC State.

Andrew Scruggs graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in horticulture science and in 2016 with a master’s degree in plant pathology from NC State. He currently serves as a market development representative at Bayer Crop Science.

Virginia Stage is an associate professor, registered dietitian and director of the Food-based Early Education Lab in the Department of Nutrition Science at East Carolina University. She earned her doctorate in nutrition science from NC State in 2013.

Alicain Carlson is a technical manager at Syngenta Flowers. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from Virginia Tech and both her master’s degree and doctorate in horticultural science from NC State.

Brad Kearney is a medical planner in the U.S. Army Japan Surgeon’s Office. Kearney earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2008 and went on to earn his doctorate in the same field in 2012.

Susan “Evy” Jaconis graduated from NC State with a bachelor’s degree in plant biology in 2010. She will start a new role as a director of agricultural research at Cotton Incorporated in Cary, North Carolina, in October 2021.

J.T. Pope earned his bachelor’s degree in poultry sciences in 2014 and followed with a master’s degree in 2016. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in nutrition and animal and poultry science in 2018. He currently serves as nutritionist with House of Raeford Farms.