L-R, Larry Sykes, Chancellor Fox, Rita Sykes, Dean Oblilnger
Dr. Larry M. Sykes was in a familiar setting and in familiar company this past June 28. With Dean James Oblinger and N.C. State University Chancellor Marye Anne Fox participating during ceremonies in the dean's Patterson Hall office, Sykes and his wife, Rita, signed into existence the Larry M. and Rita P. Sykes Scholarship Endowment.
Sykes, director of agricultural programs at Philip Morris USA, has secured his company's support of university professorships, scholarship endowments and other academic and research enhancement funding.
With the June agreement signing, the Sykeses' donation of $5,000, matched with $10,000 from Philip Morris, will be the foundation of a scholarship endowment to support undergraduate students in any major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The merit-based and annually renewable scholarship's only stipulation is that first consideration be given to students from Franklin County, where Sykes grew up on a tobacco farm before matriculating at N.C. State, there receiving bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in biological and agricultural engineering.
Oblinger said the openness of the scholarship's award parameters are emblematic of Sykes' relationship with the College. "Today's endowment is named for two very special people, and it's a scholarship that represents tremendous flexibility," Oblinger said. "Any time we've wanted to do something differently in terms of modifying or enhancing the use of Philip Morris' funding to the College, he's encouraged us and helped us to do so. Thanks to Larry's leadership, Philip Morris has invested in students, in research, in extension, in the production side -- the entire continuum."
Chancellor Fox summed up the Sykeses' contributions, saying, "Not only have you provided this vital link with Philip Morris, but you are personal supporters of the university."
Dr. Barbara Kirby, assistant director of Academic Programs in the College, thanked the Sykeses on behalf of the students, noting that the Philip Morris Scholars she has taught are making a difference as they now work in the state. "We're in a time where students ask, 'How can I afford tuition?' The scholarships are allowing some of our best students to come to N.C. State."
Dr. Bill Collins, coordinator of Tobacco Programs and former head of the Crop Science Department in the College, noted that the endowment is just the latest event in Sykes' career of active involvement with the College. "Dr. Sykes is also adjunct professor in biological and agricultural engineering, the only one from the tobacco industry in the College," Collins said.
Sykes also serves as co-chair of the College's efforts in the university's capital campaign and has served as president of the N.C. Tobacco Foundation.
The respect and esteem with which Sykes is regarded at Philip Morris has enabled his success in securing support for N.C. State from the company, Collins said. "Philip Morris funds 24 scholarships, the most scholarships from one donor in the College," he said. "We ought to give the Sykeses a scholarship for what they have done for us. You convinced your people that this support is a good thing for agriculture, and we're grateful for it."
Sykes responded, "I never wanted to go to school anywhere but N.C. State. The resources at this university that serve agriculture in the state are unmatched anywhere. It's great to be able to do this; the matching gifts program at Philip Morris made this very doable. It's a start and hopefully we can build on this over the years."
-- Terri Leith