Perspectives Online

College Genetics and Microbiology facility dedicated as Thomas Hall

Chancellor Jim Woodward (right) joined Dr. Joab Thomas and his wife, Marly, in a tour of Thomas Hall.
Photo by Marc Hall

Dr. Joab L. Thomas, former chancellor of N.C. State University, was honored Nov. 19, as Thomas Hall was dedicated in luncheon ceremonies at the Dorothy and Roy Park Alumni Center on Centennial Campus. Thomas served as N.C. State’s chancellor from 1976 to 1981, a period of significant campus growth and accomplishment.

Formerly known as South Gardner, Thomas Hall is a newly renovated facility that is part of the complex of central campus buildings that include Gardner and Bostian halls. It houses the Genetics and Microbiology departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with space devoted to CALS plant pathology and entomology activities, as well.

Dr. James Woodward, current chancellor, hosted the luncheon program, which included a welcome from Lawrence Davenport, N.C. State Board of Trustees chairman, and remarks by Dr. Johnny Wynne, CALS dean. Also providing reminiscences was NCSU alumnus Tom Hendrickson, an entrepreneur and real-estate developer who was student body president and a Chancellor’s Aide during Thomas’ tenure.

“Our College is pleased to honor you with the naming of Thomas Hall,” Wynne told the former chancellor, as he provided impressive details about the four-story, 25,000-square-foot structure and the work that takes place there.

Built in 1964 for the life sciences, the facility recently underwent an extensive renovation, Wynne said. “It is home to our Genetics and Microbiology departments, departments that teach several undergraduate courses.”

Wynne noted that Microbiology has about 175 majors, while Genetics currently offers the College’s most popular minors program, graduating about 125 minors per year. Genetics also has a proposal, which has been approved by the Board of Trustees, to begin an undergraduate major next year.

“The two departments have more than 70 graduate students who are involved in world-class research programs,” said Wynne, who added that the research being conducted in Thomas Hall has yielded important discoveries with impact for agriculture and human health.

“Dr. Thomas, I think you can be justifiably proud of the work that is being done in the building that now bears your name. What we are learning in Thomas Hall will make life better for people in North Carolina and around the world, while the students we are training will continue that work far into the future.”

Thomas came to N.C. State as the second scientist to lead the university. During his tenure, enrollment passed 20,000 and the School (now College) of Veterinary Medicine was established. He also was instrumental in the eventual inclusion of N.C. State as a Phi Beta Kappa chapter campus. In 1981, he returned to his native state to become president of the University of Alabama, serving till 1988; he later served as president of Penn State University from 1990 to 1995.

Later, the former chancellor expressed his appreciation at the Park Alumni Center.
Photo by Marc Hall
During the luncheon, guests were shown a video wherein Thomas recalled his family’s time at N.C. State. “Raleigh is the nicest place we’ve ever lived,” he said. “North Carolina was just an attraction in itself, and N.C. State was a first-rate university without any elitist qualities.

“After my experience at N.C. State, I felt I was in a position to take on any university,” he said. “If I hadn’t had that wonderful experience with the land-grant philosophy, my future career would have been very different.”

With that, Woodward, who serves as interim chancellor, returned to the podium and quipped, “Joab, you know, we’re looking for a chancellor.”

— Terri Leith