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Gift Funds N.C. Research Campus

A $2 million gift from David Murdock, owner of Dole Food Co., will help staff the North Carolina Research Campus being developed at Kannapolis with North Carolina State University faculty members who will work to develop more nutritious fruits and vegetables.

The gift will be matched with $1 million from the North Carolina Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund. The $3 million total will be used to create endowments that will fund three David H. Murdock Distinguished Professorships.

The endowments will allow NC State to create three new faculty positions, said Dean Johnny Wynne, of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The new faculty will work in Kannapolis on the N.C. Research Campus.

The three positions will be in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and will be located in NC State’s Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute, which is being developed on the N.C. Research Campus.

The Research Campus is Murdock’s vision. The billionaire owner of Dole Food Co. and other businesses is collaborating with universities across North Carolina to transform the former textile mill town into a high-tech research center that will focus on developing a better understanding of human nutrition and foods with enhanced nutritional qualities. NC State’s Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute is expected to play a key role in making Murdock’s vision a reality.

The 100,000-square-foot building that will house the Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute is under construction and expected to be completed Aug. 1. Dr. Steve Lommel, interim associate dean for research, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and NC State assistant vice chancellor for research, said the three new faculty positions should be filled during the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Creation of the professorships gives NC State “the tools we need to recruit and retain faculty of the highest caliber,” said NC State Chancellor James Oblinger during an early March ceremony announcing the gift.

Murdock said during the ceremony that “what we can do for the benefit of mankind” is what has driven him to develop the Research Campus.

Murdock added, “Nothing is more exciting that having the knowledge of how to accomplish the things you want to accomplish.” He said he has reached out to North Carolina’s academic community to acquire the expertise needed to develop the Research Campus.

Murdock formed a partnership with the University of North Carolina system, and he sees NC State, N.C. A&T State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro and N.C. Central University, as well as institutions outside the system such as Duke University, playing major roles in developing the Research Campus.

“This may be the model for attacking big problems,” said Dr. Steve Leath, vice president for research for the University of North Carolina system, of the public-private partnership the Research Campus represents. Leath, who also attended the March announcement of the Murdock Professorships, has said Murdock is investing more than $1 billion in the Research Campus.

Much of the work of faculty from universities other than NC State will focus on nutrition, determining the optimal nutritional characteristics for various fruits and vegetables. NC State faculty will work with this nutritional information to develop plants that meet the nutritional requirements and to determine how best to produce those plants commercially.

A number of private-sector companies have also announced plans to locate offices on the Research Campus.

– caldwell –

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