Perspectives On Line: The Magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

NC State University

Summer 2004Home From the Dean

Extended Service Science and Serendipity From Core Creek to the Neuse River A Garden of Accomplishment Strong Ties Where Agriculture Is Everything College Profile
Noteworthy News Alumni Giving Items of Interest College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Dr. Ernest Hodgson

Dr. William Collins

Dr. Thomas Monaco

Maurene Rickards

Extended Service. Retirement doesn't stop faculty members from playing ongoing integral roles in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. By Terri Leith
In 2003, Dr. Gerald Elkan (left) took time from his post-retirement College duties to travel to the North Pole. Farther south, emeritus professor of statistics and forestry Dr. Larry Nelson (above), now College assistant dean for international programs, conducted a statistics short course at the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos Islands.

Ornate letter "T"hey consult. They conduct research. They teach. They raise funds. They direct committees, programs and consortiums. Some faculty retirees may be considered "old soldiers," but they do not fade away.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has need of many of them, and they answer that call. Continued leadership and new roles keep them in the “indispensable” category, as their service to the College has not been retired, but merely re-scheduled.

“I’ve never been busier,” says Dr. Ernest Hodgson, who started a phased retirement in 2000. He then retired in 2003 from the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, where he had served as first department head and was recipient of the university’s Alexander Q. Holladay Medal for Excellence and the O. Max Gardner Award. “I still have research grants funded by the Department of Defense and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,” he says. “As a result, I supervise the work of three postdoctoral research associates.”

His postretirement activities have also included serving as co-author and editor of two toxicology textbooks, now in their third editions, and a research journal.

And there are no plans to slow down for Hodgson, whose career was celebrated at a research symposium in honor of his retirement last September. “I plan to come to the lab as long as I can find the building on the same day I leave home,” he says.

Dr. Gerald Elkan, emeritus professor of microbiology, retired from the College in 1994 — but only technically speaking. He has remained professionally active as a visiting professor to universities in Malaysia and Puerto Rico, and he has continued to serve the College as its adviser to the Thomas Jefferson Scholars Program, a dual-discipline program in CALS and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He has served on the steering committee of the Park Scholars program, in which he also taught a freshman seminar, advised study trips and mentored the Park class of 2001 through all four years. In 2000, he published Microbial Evolution: A Narrative History of Microbiology at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Gerald Elkan
Elkan, in whose name a distinguished lectureship endowment has been created, is a 1996 Holladay Medalist and is listed in American Men and Women of Science. He currently works in the College’s international programs office, most recently helping to collect, prepare and send 150 donated computers and monitors to Moldova’s State Agrarian University. “The College has a federal grant to help upgrade this university,” says Elkan, who is co-investigator in these the efforts with the College’s Dr. Larry Nelson and NCSU history professor Dr. John Riddle (see news story, page 27).

“It’s hectic,” says Elkan. “If I hadn’t retired, I wouldn’t have time to do what I have to do. Couldn’t do all this on active duty!”

Part of this “postactive” duty has lately included working with the Jefferson Scholars to inventory approximately 10,000 books to be sent to the agricultural university in Moldova. And his continued leadership in raising funds for the College was recognized last year with a 2003 Retired Faculty Resource Development Award.

The 2004 winner of that award is Dr. Billy Caldwell, who retired in 1999 as associate director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. Caldwell, former professor and head of the CALS Crop Science Department, served the College for 24 years — and is still counting: He is now president of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service Foundation Board of Directors.

Dr. Billy Caldwell

“I’m still part of the College’s overall mission,” says Caldwell, who is completing an assignment as co-leader of the Philip Morris Agricultural Leadership Program, which provides leadership training for Southeast U.S. farmers who are between ages 25 and 35. In February, he finished the seventh of the training programs he’s led with Dr. William Collins, another College “retiree.”

Collins retired in 1994 from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and as associate head of the Crop Science Department after 32 years of service. After retirement he became general manager of a family farming operation, but he still works for the College as coordinator of Tobacco Programs. His fund-raising in support of tobacco programs earned Collins a 2004 Faculty Resource Development Award. And last year, his children endowed a John T. Caldwell Alumni Scholarship in honor of Collins and his wife, Ann.

“The first recipient of the scholarship has been selected for the coming fall semester,” says Collins, who notes that this is the first Caldwell Alumni Scholarship with an endowment housed in the College, in the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc.

Collins serves on the board of directors of the N.C. Agricultural Foundation and is a member of the board of the NCSU Alumni Association.

A typical day for him now “is busy but not one filled with crises and personnel problems,” Collins says. “I have flexibility to quickly respond to routine requests, which is very important in my position.”

Caldwell agrees that the newfound flexibility is welcome: “It’s still busy, but different. I have more control over my schedule.”

As Elkan puts it, “I really enjoy what I’m doing, and the fact of the matter is, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want!”

Dr. Thomas Monaco became an emeritus professor in the Department of Horticultural Science last year when he retired from his position as department head after serving in the College 36 years. Upon his retirement, he and his wife established the Thomas J. and Virginia S. Monaco Horticultural Science Graduate Fellowship Endowment for Diversity.

And while he now has more time for his home vegetable garden or fishing at Pine Knoll Shores, he’s also still working hard for the College in dual roles. He’s the College’s coordinator of commodity relations and coordinator of the Southern Region Small Fruit Consortium. As commodity relations coordinator, he’s responsible for maintaining an up-to-date directory of the state’s commodity leadership and for planning meetings between commodity leaders and College administration. As Small Fruit Consortium coordinator, he’s responsible for organizing all activities of the four-state consortium.

It sounds very full-time, but Monaco says, “I have a 40 percent appointment, which equates to two days a week. The days I work are fully occupied but are much more focused – not as many balls to juggle at one time.

“I have always enjoyed working with commodity organizations and have many friends and contacts in the industry,” he adds. “This is an excellent transition from full employment to full retirement.”

Dr. Larry Nelson retired to become emeritus professor of statistics and forestry in 1989, after 25 years with the university. A biometrician, he spent the following 10 years consulting in statistics in China, India, South America and the Caribbean. Then, in 1999, he says, “George Wilson [then CALS coordinator of international programs] pulled me out of retirement. He had a USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] subcontract and said he’d like me to manage it for several years.”

Dr. Larry Nelson

That subcontract was for the Counter-narcotics Consolidation of Alternative Development Efforts, or CONCADE, a 3½-year alternative crop development project that took Nelson and other NCSU scientists to Bolivia. There he led efforts to replace coca with alternative crops. About the time his role with CONCADE ended, Nelson was tapped to succeed Wilson, and now he is assistant dean for international programs in the College.

“Although I often work more than my official half-time, I am still on retirement — so as interesting diversions arise, I take advantage of them,” says Nelson, who was elected to the International Statistics Institute in 2003.

His current responsibilities include hosting and setting up the schedules of international groups that visit the campus. He has hosted groups from Latin America, such as Peru, Honduras, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic, and also from former Soviet Union republics, such as Moldova. He provides assistance to faculty in developing grant proposals for international work and taps CALS coffers to provide financial assistance to faculty attending international conferences. And he works with Elkan and Riddle on the computers-to-Moldova project (see news story, page 27). He also works closely with the university’s Study Abroad Office, planning courses abroad and ag-study tours, such as the one CALS students took to Ireland last year.

“It’s busy, but it’s the kind of thing I’m cut out for,” he says. “It’s an extension of the travel and connections with people whom I taught. I also do lots of consulting with former students who ask for short courses in their countries.” Recently, in response to a request from an entomologist who is a former CONCADE colleague, Nelson gave a short course at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galapagos Islands.

“THAT’S what you can do when you’re retired,” says Nelson.

Ornate letter "I"t’s late spring, and recent Cooperative Extension Service retiree Maurene Rickards gets up at 5 a.m. She sends her sons, ages 10 and 13, off to school, polishes off some household chores and settles into work, poring through a stack of information on how people can give to the College. Rickards is preparing for her new job as regional director of development for Extension programs.

That job began May 1, exactly one month after she retired as Extension director for Forsyth County, where she’d served since 1991, and after 29 years with Extension, including roles as 4-H agent and then home economics agent in Carteret and Forsyth counties.

“It’s been great since I’ve been out,” says Rickards, “but between my boys, the new job and home projects, I’m extremely busy.”

Rickards continues to work for the College, she says, “because I wanted to stay connected with my colleagues. And I always wanted to do advancement work but didn’t have the time before.”

Her job now is to go among Extension employees in the northwest counties, help them be alert to potential giving opportunities and help identify potential givers to the College. (Reagan Ammons, retired Burke County Extension director, has taken a similar job in the west, Rickards says.) It’s also a chance to work on enhanced resource development for an area close to her heart, family and consumer sciences. “4-H has a foundation, and there’s an ag foundation. We need to build resources for FCS,” she says.

She finds her new role to be very similar to her old, “just with a different twist. I am able to continue contact with so many friends, but it also gives me a goal and a purpose, and it allows me to give back to the organization that has been so wonderful to me.

“It’s not really retirement — just a change in lifestyle.”

Hodgson also says his schedule is “as busy, but different. When in town, I come to the department and work on research projects, all of which are involved with human metabolism of toxicants of interest to either NIOSH or the Department of Defense.”

Hodgson says his postretirement work is essentially “an extension of the best (most interesting) and most important part of what I did” before.

He has remained part of the life of the College, he says, “because I need to carry out professional activities relative to being a scientist in general and a toxicologist in particular. This is not really age-related: It benefits both me and the university to continue.”

Retired faculty can play an important role in providing wisdom and background knowledge, Elkan says. “We’ve got experience to offer. Sometime, somewhere the memory of what happened earlier in science can be lost, so our role is to fill in some gaps in the history of science and research. That helps in developing a better wheel rather than reinventing it.”

Elkan also helps keep CALS alumni connected to the university. Networking with former students, he’s held alumni parties in Thailand and the Philippines.

“Few people have this exceptional opportunity [to continue to contribute], which I have found to be interesting and stimulating,” Collins says. “The work is not at all boring, because each day is as different as the weather, but in a pleasant way.”

Monaco says that his retirement role makes for “an ideal situation where I can continue relationships and build new ones with the many agriculture-related organizations in the state. It is important for the College to maintain relationships with its constituents.”

Adds Caldwell, “Retirees are a good resource base for the College. There are opportunities to use my experience and history to represent the College and speak on its behalf. I needed to disconnect from day-to-day operations, but there are still programmatic aspects where it’s important to represent the College and contribute.”

Caldwell, who received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine at his retirement, will continue his Philip Morris leadership training work with Collins in December, but in the meantime the two retirees and their wives take time to travel together, recently on trips to Cancun and Acapulco.

Meanwhile, Monaco has plans to explore the entire Outer Banks.

Nelson, who has been retired the longest of this group, has for the past seven summers participated in a 500-mile bicycle trek in Iowa, and he has become a certified scuba diver during retirement, between international consultation travels.

Like Nelson, Elkan likes to take his College ambassadorship far afield. In 2003, he went to the North Pole on a Russian icebreaker vessel, lecturing to other travelers as part of an American Museum of Natural History expedition. And this summer, after traveling to a professional conference in New Orleans and then to Moldova, he plans to head to Alaska.

“I just have an urge to go to the Iditarod,” says Elkan. “Alaska gets into your blood.”

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