Skip to main content

The Phillips’ Family Leadership Incentive Award Winners Announced

The Phillips Family Leadership Incentive is endowed by Dr. Richard Phillips (’64, ’66 MS, ’70 PhD) and his late wife, Mary Phillips. The endowment given by the Phillips family was created to recognize paper science and engineering students who show a strong interest in business and professional success. The recipients of this award are to demonstrate academic achievement, strong leadership, and service within their community. This leadership incentive allows for paper science and engineering students to pursue a business administration minor from the Poole College of Management at NC State.

Before coming to NC State, Dr. Phillips retired as the Senior Vice President – Technology and Manufacturing from International Paper. Dr. Phillips is currently an Adjunct Professor and the Executive in Residence in the Department of Forest Biomaterials at NC State. He teaches and consults with our faculty, staff and students to elevate the level of our courses and curricula, research, teaching and outreach. He is also an expert consultant in our industry.

Each spring, rising juniors and seniors are given the opportunity to apply for this prestigious award. This year, the Phillips Family Leadership Incentive was awarded to four outstanding students in the Paper Science and Engineering program. Congratulations to our 2023-2024 recipients, Varun Atree, Richard Connor, Peter Gough and Kaia Markert.

Varun Atree

Fundamentally, I have always believed that engineering and business management work hand-in-hand. Although I vaguely knew this to be true as a freshman at NC State, it wasn’t until my first internship at International Paper’s Georgetown Mill that I was able to witness the synergy between engineering and business management first-hand. Every project completed by the engineers was driven by a business decision, and it was at this point that I was inspired to gain a deeper understanding of business management. After researching on-campus opportunities for business classes, I learned about the business administration minor offered by the Poole College of Management. Even better, I found that the PSE department offered a generous scholarship to sponsor students to complete the minor through the Phillips Leadership Incentive Award.

After two years of hard work in the classroom and in industry, receiving this award feels both gratifying and motivational. While it is important to reflect on how I have grown both personally and professionally over the past few years, it feels like the hard work is just beginning. I plan to use this scholarship to broaden my academic and leadership skills, and I am excited to connect my learnings in the field of business with my engineering degree. Knowing that there are successful individuals who have invested in me through this scholarship has truly inspired me, and I will do my best to remain heavily involved with the department for the rest of my academic career and beyond. I am truly grateful for being offered this generous award, and I hope that one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as Dr. Phillips and his family have done for me.

Richard Connor

What use is the best invention without a business to market and sell the idea? This question drives my entrepenurial mindset as I study both Paper Science Engineering and Chemical Engineering. I believe that every engineer should be educated about the business side of the industry because it doesn’t matter how useful paper is or how sustainable it is as a product if there is no business to sell it. I am incredibly thankful for the generosity of Dr. Phillips and for this award as it allows me to advance my studies in effective leadership and business practices. I look forward to working with the other recipients of the Phillips Family Leadership award on improving the program and developing our leadership capabilities! I know this group of individuals very well and view them as some of the brightest minds at NC State, and I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together this year.

Peter Gough

I am greatly honored to receive the Phillips Family Leadership Incentive Award. When I first arrived at NC State, my intention was to solely pursue a degree in Chemical Engineering. However, my path took an unexpected turn when I discovered the realm of Paper Science and Engineering. Instantly captivated by the program’s remarkable opportunities, staff, and community; I wholeheartedly embraced this new field of study, and I haven’t looked back since.

Throughout my academic journey, I’ve harbored a long-standing aspiration to obtain an MBA and emerge as a prominent leader within my future industry. Recognizing the value of a Business Administration minor in accelerating my progress toward these goals, I contemplated integrating it into my already rigorous curricula in Paper Science and Chemical Engineering. Yet, I hesitated, as incorporating an additional year of study provides some challenges. But then I heard about the Phillips Family Leadership Incentive Award through Dr. Byrd. The PFLI Award granted me the opportunity to turn my aspirations into a reality and take a momentous leap toward my future as a paper industry leader. With the financial support provided by this esteemed award, I can confidently pursue my plan of obtaining a Business Administration minor and begin the journey toward my future long-term goals.

I am incredibly grateful to have received the generosity of the Phillips family and hope that someday I can be in their shoes supporting PSE students to pursue their dreams.

Kaia Markert

When I decided I wanted to attend NC State after high school, I originally chose to major in sustainable materials technology (SMT). I saw sustainability being a trend that would be growing in the next 10-20 years that I supported. 

The summer before freshman year, I visited campus and took a tour of the SMT program, along with other majors in the college of natural resources like forest management, conservation biology, environmental tech, etc. After a general welcome session, we split into separate groups based on our major and took more specific tours. I got to meet Dr. Byrd, visited the baby paper machine and saw the paper labs. I really enjoyed the tour, and it seemed like the right fit for me.

We then gathered again for lunch with our tour groups, but when I sat down at the table labeled SMT, I realized I didn’t recognize anyone in the group. After talking to the tour guide, I realized I somehow accidentally took the paper science tour while the SMT tour group went to their labs and made fiberglass. 

The damage was already done. I immediately switched my major to paper science and chemical engineering. The staff, facilities, professional outlooks, and scholarship opportunities really distinguished paper science as a program—as I’m sure many students before me have noticed. 

Thank you to all of the donors and sponsors that make this program what it is! I am humbled and beyond grateful to receive the Phillips Family Leadership Incentive Scholarship, and I can’t wait to see how I can use my business administration minor after graduating! Go Pack!