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Noteworthy Giving

Gift conserves a piece of the Carolina coast * Endowments are graduate students' gain * A gift of a garden: Family wills property to N.C. State * Ruby McSwain bestows a jewel of a gift * Campaign raises $11.5 million


Gift conserves a piece
of the Carolina coast

Dr. BJ Copeland and Todd PreunigerOn a June afternoon, within minutes of stepping onto an undeveloped stretch of Holden Beach, zoology graduate student Todd Preuninger marveled at a turtle plodding its way through salt marsh cordgrass. Identified a yellow-flowered plant along the roadside as sea ox-eye. And even tasted a bit of glasswort in a salt flat.

As a research assistant in the Department of Zoology, Preuninger has been charged with cataloging the plants and animals at the 29-acre site. His efforts represent an important first step toward making the property a valuable addition to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ off-campus holdings, said Dean Jim Oblinger.

The land was donated to the college and the N.C. Sea Grant College Program in April by the owners of Holden Beach Enterprises, Jim and Jo Anne Griffin, Joe and Ginger Taylor, and Virgil and Carolyn Roberts. The property is valued at $1.375 million.

The site will give the college a place to gain a better understanding of coastal ecology, water quality and nutrient management.The site has been named the Drew Griffin Environmental Research Facility, in recognition of the late developer’s commitment to ensuring environmental quality in the coastal Brunswick County town that he helped to found. Drew Griffin is Jim Griffin’s father.

Drew Griffin, who died in 1991, lived in Holden Beach for 29 years. He served three terms on the town council.

The site given in Griffin’s name consists of a tidal creek, a salt marsh, a salt flat and a spoil area. It is surrounded by development on three sides and sand dredged from the Intracoastal Waterway on the other.

Dr. Johnny Wynne, director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, said the site will give the college’s researchers and students a place to conduct experiments that help them gain a better understanding of such topics as coastal ecology, water quality and nutrient management. Field faculty members also hope to use the facility for programs aimed, for instance, at enabling school teachers, 4-H’ers and others to learn about salt marshes.

Preuninger’s work will help shape the future of such efforts. His goal is to develop a guide that provides detailed information about species richness and diversity at the site. That guide should be a useful tool in developing suitable research, teaching and extension efforts.

And the experience should give Preuninger a head start in building a career in wildlife biology or conservation.

I think that it will give me the opportunity to become just a better overall naturalist,” he says. “It will give me a chance to learn about an actual wetland, to consider the effects of human intrusion and, overall, to see the mosaic that makes up the wetland ecosystem.”

—Dee Shore

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Endowments are
graduate students' gain

Life should be a bit easier for some graduate students in genetics and horticulture as a result of endowments created by Dr. Randy Gardner and Dr. Charles Stuber.

Gardner is a plant breeder. He’s been breeding tomatoes at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Fletcher since 1976.

He’s been so successful that funding from seed companies that are using his varieties pays for his program. Receipts collected by N.C. Foundation Seed Producers Inc., which come back to Gardner’s program, amount to $40,000 to $50,000 annually. That’s enough to keep his program going, with some left over — $21,000 to be exact. That’s the amount Gardner has designated to start an endowment to attract and aid graduate students in horticultural science.

Stuber, professor emeritus of genetics and crop science, retired in January at the end of a 39-year career. In addition to being a member of the N.C. State faculty, he was supervisory research geneticist and research leader of the Plant Science Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. The unit is in Raleigh.

He announced following his retirement that he will give $15,000 over three years to create an endowment to provide cash awards to graduate students to help them attend professional meetings. Stuber asked friends and colleagues to contribute to the endowment rather than for a retirement gift. That they did, to the tune of $2,500.

In addition, Pioneer Hybrid International contributed $25,000 to the endowment, while Asgrow Seed Company added a $12,500 contribution.

Stuber, an internationally recognized expert on the inheritance of quantitative genetic traits in corn, thinks the synergy that can come from professional meetings can be an important part of a graduate student’s experience. And, he added, “I’ve noticed that students sometimes have trouble affording meetings.”

—Dave Caldwell

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A gift of a garden:
Family wills land to N.C. State

Raleigh residents William and Mary Coker Joslin have given their home and surrounding 4-acre garden to N.C. State University to be used as an interdisciplinary research, teaching and outreach laboratory.

William and Mary Coker Joslin The Joslins will continue to live in the home and maintain the property. Care of the property will become the responsibility of the university upon their deaths. The Joslins have also created an endowment to help care for the property, which is located on West Lake Drive near the intersection of St. Mary’s Street and Glenwood Avenue.

The property includes a stream, ravine garden, woodland, formal perennial garden, vegetable garden, terrace garden and rose arbor. When the university takes control of the land, it will be used by the departments of Horticultural Science, Landscape Architecture, Botany, Plant Pathology and Parks and Recreation Management.

—Dave Caldwell

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Ruby McSwain bestows
a Lee County jewel

1998 was a whirlwind year for Ruby Vann Crumpler McSwain. It began with her being named the Sanford Herald “1997 Citizen of the Year.”

Ruby McSwain has arranged to give this home to the College. Next, she was honored by N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for her achievements and her generosity in presenting the college its largest planned gift. In March, she was selected as one of 10 Outstanding Women of Lee County. She’s had her portrait commissioned by Meredith College, where she serves on the boards of associates and trustees.

In between, she’s found time to run a business, continue her volunteer and philanthropic work, and visit with a range of high-level administrators from N.C. State, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the University of North Carolina system, including President Molly Broad.

All this in the year she turned 80.

“My life’s always been full,” McSwain said.

The sixth child of a Sampson County farm family, McSwain saw her life change dramatically during World War II when she took a job with what is now the Employment Security Commission in Lumberton.

“Wartime caused people to become more transient and to be introduced to more people,” she explained. And one of the people she met became the most influential in her life — the man who, in 1945, became her husband and her mentor, Ernest P. McSwain.

“Back then, women weren’t taught much about business and money matters,” McSwain said, “but Ernest didn’t agree with that. He encouraged me to learn everything I could.”

Their prosperous life together took them from Sanford to Canada to Australia and back, through ventures that taught them both the artistic and business sides of being florists, brick makers and innovative entrepreneurs. They traveled around the world before settling permanently in Sanford. McSwain thought those halcyon days had ended in 1976 when Ernest died, but that’s when she found the most value in her husband’s lessons.

“I survived and coped, thanks to the things I learned from him,” McSwain said. “I learned how to be a successful business person and a successful person.”

Her business acumen, her love of the area’s history, and her desire to protect the diminishing farmland of her adopted county led McSwain to give the college 300 acres of land and a Civil War-era house. She also established an extension and research endowment.

“I saw the development that was occurring all around Sanford, and I decided I wanted to save this land, have it taken care of,” she said. “My best chance was through the college.”

Some of the land will become the site of the county’s new agricultural center, eventually housing the Lee County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and other agencies. But the majority of it will remain as McSwain desires, “unspoiled.”

—Linda Weiner

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Campaign raises
$11.5 million

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is closing in on its goal of increasing its scholarship endowment by more than $15 million. The fund-raising effort is part of the universitywide Campaign for N.C. State Students.

The college has raised about $11.5 million toward a goal of $15.45 million. The college’s scholarship endowment was $4.2 million when the Campaign for N.C. State Students was announced in the spring of 1997.

It is hoped the endowment will be at least $19.2 million when the campaign ends Dec. 31, 1999. Universitywide, the goal is to increase scholarship endowment by $80 million during the campaign.

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