Environmentalist Tom Quay, one of the first to receive a Ph.D. from N.C. State, has died

Date posted: April 19, 2012

Thomas L. Quay

Dr. Thomas L. Quay, professor emeritus of zoology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, died April 16 at the age of 97. A lifetime environmentalist, he was also a history-making CALS alumnus: In 1948, he was one of the three students to receive the first Ph.D. degrees awarded by N.C. State University.

A native of Mt. Holly, N.J., he earned his 1938 bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and then came to N.C. State to attend graduate school in zoology. His studies were interrupted by his WWII service in the Pacific as a Navy lieutenant. He returned to complete his Ph.D. in zoology in 1948, and that same year he joined the N.C. State faculty. He focused his field research on how birds adapted to their habitats and taught ornithology until his retirement in 1980. In that 32-year career, Quay shared his love for wildlife with students and directed 53 graduate students to their master’s and doctoral degrees.

Herman Lankford Photo

In 2001 Dr. Tom Quay (right) congratulated Gregory Queen, the first recipient of Thomas Quay Wildlife and Natural Resources Experiential Learning Award.

In 1994 he was inducted into the N.C. Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Hall of Fame. In 1999, colleagues, friends and former students established in his honor the Thomas Quay Wildlife and Natural Resources Experiential Learning Award, created to provide financial assistance to students majoring in environmental sciences and natural resources at N.C. State.

A memorial service celebrating his life was held on Friday, April 20, at West Raleigh Presbyterian Church.

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