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Noteworthy Alumni

Distinguished Alumni honored * Alumni tapped for honor society * Ag advocate awarded medal

College honors
distinguished alumni

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has presented Distinguished Alumnus Awards to Dr. Joseph D. Coffey of Midlothian,Va., and William E. Holman of Raleigh.

  • Coffey, vice president of economics and planning for Southern States Cooperative Inc., is widely recognized for his concise and accurate analysis of economic issues important to agriculture.
  • Holman, assistant secretary for environmental protection at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has long been known for his diplomacy and his ability to balance environmental concerns with economic progress and land use.

Dr. Joseph D. Coffey

Dr. Joseph Coffey From where he sits in the Richmond, Va., corporate office of Southern States Cooperative Inc., Dr. Joe Coffey sees a bright future for American agriculture. As an agricultural economist, and former university professor, cattle farmer, and assistant to the U.S. secretary of agriculture, he has long studied the economic issues and trends that are important to agriculture, and his opinions and analyses bear a great deal of credibility.

Coffey is a native of Martinsville, Ind., where he was raised on his grandparents’ dairy farm. He earned degrees in agricultural economics, a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University, and a master’s and doctorate from N.C. State University in 1963 and 1966 respectively.

His first teaching job was with the Agricultural University in Peru. He went on to teach agricultural economics at the University of California at Berkeley. From 1969 to 1972, he served in the office of Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, working on legislation to improve rural communities by strengthening agriculture.

From 1972 to 1981, Coffey was head of the agricultural economics department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Near Blacksburg, Va., he owned a beef operation with 400 to 500 head of cattle.

Since 1981, he has worked for Southern States, where his duties include serving as the organization’s chief economist, providing leadership for strategic planning, conducting market research and educating farmers and agribusiness leaders about issues of importance to agriculture. He writes a monthly column, “AgAnalysis,” for Southern States’ Cooperative Farmer magazine.

Coffey sees sunny skies ahead for American agriculture. “The world is headed in our direction,” he said. “We can either work harder for lower wages, or we can work smarter. U.S. agriculture has the knowledge, research and technology to work smarter.”

The keys to a successful future for agriculture include using technology wisely and having a market-based economy, Coffey said. As a past president of the Council of Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching, a national grassroots organization committed to the support of land-grant universities, Coffey is a vocal advocate for the research and extension offered by land-grant universities like N.C. State.

“I feel that research and education are so fundamental to the future of agriculture,” he said. “There wouldn’t be food at the grocery store if not for the American farmer, and there wouldn’t be American farmers if not for research and education of the land-grant universities and colleges.”

Coffey sees three trends that will have significant implications for agriculture in the future. The first is globalization of agriculture, providing opportunities for American farmers to market products abroad. The second is the role of new technologies, particularly biotechnology and computerization, to improve farming production. The third area is environmental sensitivity, higher demands for a clean environment.

Away from Southern States, Coffey is an avid runner who has competed in 10 marathons. He enjoys writing and recently self-published a book of poetry. He and his wife enjoy traveling and getting together with their three grown sons who live in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Charleston, W.Va.

William E. Holman

William E. Holman As it has been for many years, Bill Holman’s sight remains clearly set on protecting North Carolina’s environment. But his perspective has changed. After years of working as an environmental lobbyist to get legislation passed, Holman began a new job in January that gives him responsibility for implementing that legislation.

Now with the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Holman oversees nine divisions charged with protecting the state’s natural resources and waterways.

“In my old job, I was an advocate for passing legislation. In my new job, I have to implement legislation,” Holman said. “I’m finding that it’s harder than it looks. I have to spend more time on budget and personnel issues than before.

“Now I’m on a team with the governor and the secretary (of environment and natural resources). They’re the leaders of the team, not me.”

Holman earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from N.C. State in 1978. A native of Greensboro, Holman spent much of his youth camping from the mountains to the coast. He became an avid lover of the state’s natural beauty. After graduating from high school in Raleigh, Holman hiked the 2,159-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia in two trips.

While he was a student at N.C. State, Holman worked as a volunteer for the Sierra Club and the Conservation Council of North Carolina. That volunteer effort led to his employment as a lobbyist for those organizations after he graduated. Along the way, he also represented the N.C. Nature Conservancy, the American Planning Association and the N.C. Public Transportation Association.

During his years working the halls of the General Assembly as a lobbyist, Holman was instrumental in getting a number of major environmental bills passed: the 1987 phosphate detergent ban; the Watershed Protection Act of 1989, which set minimum standards to protect the state’s drinking water; the Solid Waste Reduction Act of 1989, which led to many of the state’s curbside recycling programs; and the Parks and Recreation Act of 1995, which dedicated funds to state and local parks.

Last year, Holman worked for passage of the Clean Water Responsibility Act, which placed a two-year moratorium on the construction of new hog farms, set new limits on municipal discharges into nutrient-sensitive waters, and established planning requirements for the state’s major river basins. Now he is charged with overseeing the divisions responsible for implementing that legislation, as well as the watershed protection act and the solid waste reduction act.

“Gov. [James B.] Hunt’s top environmental priority is clean water — cleaning up our state’s rivers requires monitoring, research, regulation, incentives, and reduction of pollution from all sources. Air- and water-quality problems will require multi-faceted, science-based decision making,” he said.

As a lobbyist, Holman was well known for his diplomacy and his ability to bring groups with very different perspectives to consensus on environmental matters.

“Almost everyone in our state wants clean air, clean water and healthy communities,” Holman said. When working toward agreement on legislation, “you have to cut through the rhetoric and address people’s legitimate concerns.”

Holman still logs long hours at the legislative building when the General Assembly is in session. In his limited spare time, he enjoys hiking, camping and canoeing.

— Natalie Hampton

Related article from The News & Observer: Environmental Activist Takes Enforcement Post

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3 alumni tapped
for honor society

The North Carolina State University chapter of the agricultural honor society Gamma Sigma Delta initiated three alumni into its chapter at a ceremony held in April.

Chosen for their accomplishments related to agriculture were College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni:

  • Harold J. Brubaker, who serves as speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives;
  • H. Allen Wooten, a grain and seed producer in Pender County;
  • and his brother, Larry B. Wooten, assistant to the president of the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation.

Harold Brubaker Brubaker, who earned a master’s degree in economics from N.C. State in 1971, has served 11 terms in the General Assembly. A Randolph County resident, Brubaker has been active in a number of farm-related organizations, including the Farm Bureau, the State Grange, FFA and 4-H.

Allen Wooten Allen Wooten graduated from N.C. State in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in pest management for crop science. He began his career with the N.C. Crop Improvement Association, then returned to his home in Pender County to farm. He has been president of the Pender County Farm Bureau and the N.C. Soybean Growers Association.

Larry Wooten Larry Wooten also farmed and has worked through numerous organizations to improve the lives of farmers and other rural citizens. A Raleigh resident, he is on the university’s Board of Visitors and the Rural Development Center Board of Directors. He earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from N.C. State in 1973.

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Ag advocate
awarded medal

In discussing his decades-long service to N.C. State University, Bob Jenkins likes to back up and mention that he graduated from a tiny high school in rural Granville County.

“There were only 12 students in the class. We didn’t even know what an S.A.T. was, but the opportunity was there for me to go to college,” he says. “And I don’t ever want to see anyone denied that opportunity.”

Bob JenkinsIn large measure, this conviction has driven Jenkins’ tireless work on behalf of his alma mater. In recognition of that support, he was honored as one of three winners of the 1998 Watauga Medal, N.C. State’s highest non-academic honor. And in June he received the Volunteer Service award from the National Agriculture Alumni and Development Association.

Jenkins graduated from the university in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy. His service to N.C. State complements a career spanning more than 40 years in service to North Carolina’s people, especially those involved in agriculture and agribusiness.

The former extension agent is president of the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation and holds numerous positions with state and national organizations related to agriculture and trade.

At N.C. State, he has been a director of the N.C. Veterinary Medicine Foundation Board, and he has served on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Advisory Council and its Alumni Society. He also is the college’s co-chairman of the universitywide Campaign for N.C. State Students.

Perhaps the most rewarding of his university efforts has been serving as chairman of the James A. Graham Scholars Campaign. The campaign raised $1.25 million for merit scholarships in honor of the state’s long-time commissioner of agriculture, also an N.C. State alumnus. The scholarships are aimed at helping deserving students pursue degrees in agricultural sciences while they gain knowledge of journalism, communication and public policy.

More recently, Jenkins has been working to raise funds for the Eastern 4-H Center being developed in Tyrrell County. As chairman of the private fund-raising steering committee, he aims to garner $3 million to develop the 242-acre site into a living classroom where students, teachers and others can develop leadership skills and can get a hands-on understanding of the natural resources of Eastern North Carolina.

Jenkins sees such volunteer efforts as a way not only to give back to an institution that, as he puts it, “helped me develop as an individual” but also as a way to strengthen the college’s work “in those areas where there is a need” — in helping the state’s youth, resolving issues related to the environment and supporting agriculture.

—Dee Shore

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