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Campus Life

Chef to Give NC State Fall Commencement Speech

For Immediate Release

Chef Vivian Howard, a Kinston, North Carolina restaurateur featured on PBS’ “A Chef’s Life,” will deliver NC State’s commencement address on Thursday, Dec. 18 at 9 a.m. in the PNC Arena in Raleigh.

During the ceremony, Chancellor Randy Woodson will confer an honorary degree on Dr. George M. Whitesides, an acclaimed chemist who leads a research group at Harvard dedicated to changing the paradigms of science.

Howard, an NC State alumna, learned early on to appreciate the ebb and flow of eating with the seasons. She was born in Deep Run, North Carolina, to tobacco and hog farming parents. Still, it took 23 years and a false start in the advertising business to convince her that a career in food was the right path. After working with cutting-edge chefs in New York, Howard and Ben Knight, now her husband, left the urban landscape in 2005 to open Chef & the Farmer restaurant in Kinston. Eight years later, they expanded their portfolio, opening the Boiler Room Oyster Bar.

In 2013, “A Chef’s Life,” following the trials and travails of Howard and Knight and their restaurants, premiered on PBS. The show, which explores traditional and modern applications of Southern ingredients, won a 2014 Peabody Award and was named a James Beard Media Award finalist.

Whitesides, the most-cited living chemist, leads wide-ranging research in fields such as soft robotics, the origins of life and medical diagnostic tools for the developing world. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he has co-founded a dozen companies and holds more than 50 patents.

His work has led to breakthroughs in nanotechnology, new classes of materials, and drugs to manage cholesterol, improve dialysis and fight drug-resistant pathogens. One of his passions is creating a “lab on a chip” – a postage stamp-sized piece of paper that can be used to diagnose diseases in developing countries. A former faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is the current Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard. His many honors include the U.S. National Medal of Science and Japan’s Kyoto Prize.

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  1. This story says many great things about Vivian Howard (“The Chef”), but omits one critical fact: Vivian is an NC State alumna and graduate of our Department of English. Go ‘Pack!

    Jeff Braden, Dean
    College of Humanities and Social Sciences