A Legacy of Service
A former state Extension Service director, a textiles industry leader and the president of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation received the prestigious Watauga Medal for distinguished service to NC State at the university’s Founders’ Day dinner, held Monday, March 7.
T. Carlton Blalock, Derick Close and Susan P. Ward accepted NC State’s highest nonacademic honor, established in 1975 by the Board of Trustees to honor people who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the university.
Blalock led integration of 4-H and the Extension Service during his 30-year career with NC State. A volunteer, supporter and fundraiser for 33 years since his retirement, in 2006 he became the third North Carolinian to be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.
Blalock’s first experience with extension programs came as a 4-H member growing up on the family farm in Wilson County. He was a wrestling team member as an NC State student, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He completed a doctorate in extension administration at the University of Wisconsin before joining NC State as a dairy specialist in 1951.
After being named 4-H program leader for North Carolina in 1964, Blalock integrated state programs and staff. He shifted 4-H from a school-based program to a community-based organization, introducing 4-H programs in urban areas. As Extension Service director in 1970, he led statewide integration of the organization. He chaired a national committee on extension policy and received superior service awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Epsilon Sigma Phi association for extension professionals. His volunteer achievements include organizing a 4-H golf tournament to fund scholarships, spearheading efforts to create extension endowment funds and supporting the Wolfpack Club.
Derick Close of Charlotte is president and CEO of Springs Creative Products Group, a fabric and crafts business. A 1982 NC State textiles management graduate, he is a director and past president of the North Carolina Textile Foundation. Close helped initiate a scholarship program to attract talented students to the textiles program at NC State. He was honored as the outstanding alumnus of the College of Textiles in 2000.
He served on the University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors from 1994 to 1997 and the NC State Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2010. He serves as a board member for both corporations and community nonprofit agencies. In 2008 Close received Leadership Charlotte’s Schley Lyons Award for service to the community.
Close is a partner in the Carolina Panthers NFL franchise and a former partner in Charlotte Knights AAA baseball. A longtime supporter of Wolfpack athletics, he has helped chair several fundraising efforts, including the Goal Line Drive committee to upgrade and renovate Carter-Finley Stadium.
A longtime advocate for animals, Susan Ward serves as president of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation. She is a retired freelance artist with expertise in stained glass design and production. As an artist-in-residence in her hometown, Kinston, she worked with physically and developmentally disabled students. She has been active in supporting the Gregg Museum and its predecessor, the Gallery of Art and Design.
She has supported academic, athletic and arts scholarship programs at NC State with her husband, Randall, an alumnus. The Wards helped fund a mobile veterinary surgery unit to provide service for rural areas and during natural disasters. Veterinary students at NC State gain hands-on experience working with the unit as part of their rotations.
The Wards have underwritten a new Hannah Heart Pavilion for cardiology services, named for their rescued Newfoundland, that will be part of the Randall B. Terry Jr. Companion Animal Veterinary Medical Center. The Crafts Center wood shop in the renovated Thompson Hall is named for the furniture business the Wards founded, This End Up.
Among her volunteer activities, Susan Ward has served as an animal advocate for the Wake County SPCA and Newfoundland rescue efforts.