Ada Dalla Pozza, groundbreaking Cooperative Extension educator, dies at 91
A pioneering educator who devoted decades to improving the lives of North Carolinians, especially its women and children, passed away Jan. 31 at the age of 91.
Ada Braswell Dalla Pozza of Cary served North Carolina Cooperative Extension at N.C. State University for more than 70 years as an agent, faculty member, mentor and volunteer. Ms. Ada, as she is affectionately known, provided leadership to improve the quality of life for families and helped create leadership institutes for rural women, many of whom became elected officials.
A visitation is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, at Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 200 Southeast Maynard Road, Cary, N.C. 27511. A memorial service takes place at 10 a.m. the following day at St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, 804 High House Road, Cary, NC 27513.
Dalla Pozza won numerous state and national awards and held countless leadership positions. Dalla Pozza was the News & Observer’s Tar Heel of the Week. In a March 9, 1980, article headlined “Home economist has clout – event at the U.N.,” she was quoted as saying, “I’ve always liked to help people.”
Indeed, she left that commitment to people, as well as her enthusiasm and expertise, as her legacy to the organization she served so faithfully. Dr. Carolyn Dunn, professor and interim head of N.C. State’s Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences, says that Dalla Pozza “cared deeply about the youth and families in North Carolina and made it her life’s work to serve them. She paved the way for the work that continues today.”
Born in Anson County in 1922, Dalla Pozza said that her early years gave her an advantage when it came to understanding farm families’ struggles. She was raised on an Anson County farm – a farm she, as a teen, and her sisters began operating after their father died of leukemia.
Her acquaintance with Cooperative Extension – an educational outreach partnership of N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and county governments – stretched back to those childhood days. Taking part in the organization’s 4-H program, she became the state and national Dress Revue champion in 1937, when she designed and constructed a red plaid floor-length formal dress with matching red bolero jacket. She also made her own undergarments and pocketbook for the competition.
Dalla Pozza began her career with Cooperative Extension in a position that offered no pay: assistant home economics agent in her home county. Then in 1944, after earning a bachelor’s degree in home economics from what is now the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, she moved to a paid position in Union County. She worked as an emergency World War II food preservation assistant, a position that called for her to teach families about healthy nutrition and safe food preservation at a time when the United States government was rationing food. Some of the preserved food, such as home-canned pork chops and sausage, also went to the front lines, bringing Dalla Pozza thank-you letters from a number of servicemen.
She was married in 1945 and moved to New Jersey, came back to North Carolina and then went to West Germany. But in 1953, she and her husband, Martin, moved back to Anson County, where Martin became a dairy farmer. She taught high school home economics briefly, then rejoined Cooperative Extension to serve as a home demonstration agent.
She went on to serve as a district agent and then in 1969 as state home economics agent. During her career, she pursued a master’s degree in administration part-time through the University of Tennessee and also took advanced-level courses at N.C. State.
Perhaps Dalla Pozza’s greatest influence came as adviser to the North Carolina Extension Homemakers’ Organization, now known as the North Carolina Extension and Community Association. The homemakers themselves were influential in shaping state and local policies in support of the state’s families.
She began the university’s former “University Days of Wheels” program, which bused women as far as New England for briefings on disparate topics, from mushroom farming to international trade. She also led the homemakers on a tour of U.N. committee headquarters throughout Europe. In 1974, one of her tour groups arrived at the United Nations on the same day as Yasser Arafat, the late head of the Palestine Liberation Organization. According to the N&O, hers was the only group cleared to go into the U.N. building that day, given the security concerns around Arafat’s visit.
In 1982, the year of her retirement, homemakers launched the fund-raising campaign to name an area of N.C. State’s McKimmon Center for Extension and Continuing Education in her honor. In a campaign brochure, their state association commented on her “love, interest and unselfish guidance” to the state’s families. It also acknowledged her involvement and guidance in educational programs; leadership training seminars; workshops; and tours at the local, state and international levels; as well as her service to state and national education groups.
Dalla Pozza’s accolades included the N.C. State University Alumni Association Award of Merit, the N.C. State Grange Woman of the Year and National Association of Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Distinguished Service Award. She also was named to the North Carolina 4-H Hall of Fame and the inaugural class of the North Carolina Family and Consumer Sciences Foundation Hall of Fame.
She was instrumental in organizing both the North Carolina Family and Consumer Sciences Foundation and the North Carolina Extension and Community Association Foundation. These two groups have raised millions inendowments and enhancement funds and in grants to enhance the Cooperative Extension family programs that she helped build.
Dalla Pozza also created the Ada B. Dalla Pozza Family and Consumer Sciences Association Endowment, which provides professional development funds for agents from across the state. She has made additional gifts to the N.C. State University Club (where she served as first woman president and where an atrium is named in her honor), the Carol Caldwell Scholarship Endowment and the Jane S. McKimmon Society. She also supported numerous endowments for 4-H, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Extension and Community Association programs.
At the 2012 N.C. State University Alumni Association awards reception, when she received the Award of Merit, Dalla Pozza said, “Throughout my life, my goal has always been to better the families of North Carolina through this non-formal, land-grant mission called Extension home economics. I graciously accept this award of merit on their behalf and challenge those of you in the audience to continue this work for all North Carolinians.”
–Dee Shore, N.C. State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 919-513-3117