Perspectives Online

Colvards' 4-H Leadership Endowment is latest milestone in stellar career


Martha Colvard (seated left) and Dr. Dean W. Colvard (right) sign the new 4-H leadership endowment named in their honor. With them are Dr. Thearon McKinney and Sharon Rowland, both of 4-H Youth Development, associate Cooperative Extension director Dr. Joe Zublena and CALS Dean Johnny Wynne.
Photo by Becky Kirkland

When Dr. Dean W. Colvard, former dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and his wife, Martha Lampkin Colvard, established the Dr. Dean and Mrs. Martha Colvard 4-H Leadership Endowment on Oct. 28, it became the latest of the couple's many contributions to higher education celebrated that day.

The endowment, created by the Colvards through initial gifts totaling $56,000, is being established to provide resources for youth leadership programs to ensure that 21st-century 4-H youth will have opportunities to develop values-based leadership skills.

Dr. Marshall Stewart, state 4-H program leader, said, "Dr. and Mrs. Colvard have entrusted their endowment with the North Carolina 4-H Development Fund to allow the 4-H program to continue to instill values-based leadership in our participating members. 4-H'ers have unique opportunities to move from local club to county, district and finally to state leadership in the 4-H youth development program. We are honored that the Colvards have honored North Carolina 4-H with a gift as part of their legacy gifts."

Describing Dean Colvard "one of the most outstanding educators of our time," Dr. Johnny Wynne, CALS dean, noted that the Colvards "have provided visionary leadership for many institutions of higher education across our great nation."

Dean W. Colvard, a native of Grassy Creek in Ashe County, participated in 4-H as a youngster. After he received his 1935 bachelor's degree in agriculture from Berea College in Kentucky, he worked as an agriculture instructor at North Carolina's Brevard College, before becoming a graduate research assistant at the University of Missouri, where he earned his master's degree in animal physiology in 1938. He later earned his Ph.D. in livestock economics from Purdue University in 1950.

From 1938 to 1946, Colvard was superintendent of Mountain Research Farms of the N.C. Agricultural Research Stations. In 1947, he joined the faculty at N.C. State, where he was in charge of dairy research and teaching. From 1948 to 1953 he was head of the Department of Animal Industry. He became dean of the College in 1953, serving till 1960.

As dean he helped develop the "agribusiness" concept, giving agriculture a broader definition, and he oversaw expansion of the research program in the College. He was instrumental in establishing the two-year Agricultural Institute at N.C. State, and he helped initiate and serve as coordinator for the College's agricultural research mission to Peru. The Nickels for Know-How program and the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc. had their beginnings during his tenure, as well.

In 1954, The Progressive Farmer named Colvard "Man of the Year" in service to North Carolina Agriculture. In 1960, he became president of Mississippi State University, where he was instrumental in integrating the university. He returned to North Carolina in 1966 to become chancellor of the new University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he served until his retirement in 1978.

Colvard, with William L. Carpenter, is author of Knowledge is Power, a detailed history of the College, published in 1987. He was honored with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award of the N.C. 4-H Development Fund in 1998.

Martha Colvard, a native of Missouri, met her husband at Berea College, where she earned her bachelor's degree in biology. After graduating, she worked as a medical technologist in the Hematology and Pathology Laboratory, Jefferson City, Mo. She and Dean Colvard were married in 1939 at the Berea College Chapel before moving to Swannanoa. Now residents of Charlotte, they have three children and four grandchildren.

Throughout his life, Dean Colvard has followed the state motto "to be rather than to seem," Wynne said. "With this endowment it is the desire of Dr. and Mrs. Colvard that today's 4-H'ers will as adults operate with the same philosophy."

- Terri Leith