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2022 Watauga Medal Ceremony Recognizes Three Extraordinary Pack Members

NC State’s Board of Trustees presented three alumni with the Watauga Medal, the university’s highest nonacademic honor, during a March 4 ceremony held in the ballroom at Talley Student Union. The annual award recognizes individuals who have made notable and dedicated contributions to the advancement of NC State.

The trustees began bestowing the Watauga Medal in 1975. As the 2022 medalists, Brenda Brickhouse, Bill Culpepper and Jerry Jackson joined a group of 126 previous honorees. Each year, many past winners attend the ceremony.

“Our Watauga Medalists help us proudly carry on, together, our university’s mission of creating economic, societal and intellectual prosperity for the people of North Carolina and beyond,” said Stan Kelly, chair of the Board of Trustees. “These medalists play different, important roles in our Pack. Their contributions can include volunteer service, behind-the-scenes advocacy, philanthropy and so much more.

“They mentor. They inspire. They share a deep love for NC State. And tonight, we shine a spotlight back on their Wolfpack spirit.”

The evening also marked the observance of Founders Day, which recognizes NC State’s founding in March 1887. The university was established under the auspices of the federal Morrill Act of 1862, which allowed the U.S. government to donate federally owned land to the states for the purpose of opening colleges to teach “agriculture and the mechanic arts.”

Chancellor Randy Woodson noted that NC State opened its doors to 72 students in 1889, embodying ideals that were rapidly transforming the field of higher education. These included leading cutting-edge research and innovation to help improve technology and drive economic development; increasing opportunities to earn a college degree; and serving communities and improving lives through the practical application of knowledge.

“For all of the countless ways NC State has been transformed over the years, we continue to maintain those original ideals,” Woodson said. “Through changes and challenges, this university remains a place of purpose, opportunity and service.”

Three past Watauga Medal recipients — Gayle Lanier, Lawrence Davenport and Susan Ward — introduced this year’s honorees.

Meet the 2022 Watauga Medalists:

From left: Chancellor Randy Woodson, Brenda Brickhouse and Stan Kelly.

Brenda Brickhouse

A native of Maryland, Brickhouse developed a deep love of nature growing up and enrolled in what’s now the College of Natural Resources, at least partially because of the influence of her father, a native North Carolinian.

At NC State, she developed a strong foundation in sciences and natural resources but also statistics, economics, marketing, social studies, land management and more, earning a bachelor’s degree in forestry in 1980 and a master’s degree in public administration focused on environmental planning in 1988.

After a 37-year career in industry that took her to several states and included work for Progress Energy and CP&L, Brickhouse retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as vice president of environmental and energy policy and chief sustainability officer.

For more than two decades, her considerable experience in business and organization development and external relations has informed and influenced her service to her alma mater.

Brickhouse has been a member of the Board of Visitors since 2016. After serving as the first woman member of the board of the North Carolina Forestry Foundation, she became the first board president for the NC State Natural Resources Foundation when the forestry and pulp and paper boards merged.

She has also served on the Friends of the Gregg, the committee that worked on a new business model for Hofmann Forest, the College of Natural Resources Dean Search Committee and the NC State Investment Fund Board.

“Brenda Brickhouse embodies NC State’s land-grant mission of dedicated service to people, as well as our ideals of collaboration and synergy,” Lanier said. “Brenda’s contributions to this university are deep and long-lasting.”

Brickhouse and her husband, Wade, who grew up in Raleigh, have generously contributed to a wide range of funds. They recently established an endowed scholarship to benefit students in nuclear engineering in memory of Wade’s brother Billy, an NC State alumnus.

Members of the R. Stanhope Pullen Society, they have also established an estate gift that will support the College of Natural Resources’ unrestricted fund as well as companion animal care at the College of Veterinary Medicine. The Brickhouses’ extensive collection of artwork and fine crafts will eventually be gifted to the Gregg Museum of Art & Design along with funds to care for it.

The Brickhouses have contributed to other areas, too, including the Centennial Campus Arts Project, the Student Emergency Fund, the College of Natural Resources and Gregg Museum Enhancement Funds, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Excellence Fund, the All Gifts Great and Small Fund, the University’s Greatest Needs Fund and more.

Brickhouse, a lifetime member of the NC State Alumni Association, was honored in 2014 with the College of Natural Resources’ Distinguished Alumna Award.

Bill Culpepper delivers his remarks following the receipt of his Watauga Medal.

Bill Culpepper

When Bill Culpepper arrived at NC State from a Nash County tobacco farm, he figured he would eventually return there. Things turned out a little differently, but from deep roots, Culpepper has continued to help agriculture — and NC State — grow and thrive.

As a student, he was a member of organizations such as the Bragaw Board of Governors and the Botany and Agronomy clubs. After graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in crop science, he went to work for Eli Lilly and Co.

Culpepper, who now calls Indiana and North Carolina home, earned global recognition as a leader and builder of successful life sciences companies. His career culminated as the founder, president and CEO of SePRO, an innovative specialty aquatics and ornamental horticulture agrichemical company that he led for more than 25 years before retiring in 2020 from many of his day-to-day duties.

Culpepper credits the student environment at NC State for encouraging and challenging his entrepreneurial curiosity to grow things to make the world a better place. He has consistently provided leadership, service and advocacy to his alma mater.

In 2014, he was chosen as the CALS Alumni Initiate to Gamma Sigma Delta, the Honor Society of Agriculture in recognition of outstanding service to the field as an agribusiness executive, entrepreneur, philanthropist and volunteer leader. An honorary lifetime member of the Alumni Association, Culpepper was a recipient of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2005.

He has served on the Board of Visitors and the board of the NC Agricultural and Life Sciences Research Foundation, whose establishment he helped lead before becoming its first president.

He was a key volunteer for the university’s Achieve! Campaign and its Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign, as well as co-chair of the CALS Windows of Opportunity Campaign.

Culpepper has been a member of the Plant Sciences Initiative Development Task Force. He and his family have made a generous naming gift for the lobby of the Plant Sciences Building.

Members of the university’s William Joseph Peele Lifetime Giving Society, Culpepper and his wife, Brenda, have made many other significant financial gifts to support innovation and faculty excellence. In the fall, for example, Rob Richardson was named as the first William H. Culpepper Jr. Distinguished Professor in Aquatic Weed Science.

They also established the Bill and Brenda Culpepper Innovation Endowment and the William H. Culpepper Jr. Aquatic Faculty Award; have given in support of the Wynne Endowment for Innovation; and have recorded five decades of gifts to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to benefit excellence in areas including crop and horticultural science, plant pathology and turf studies.

“Bill believes deeply in the importance and promise of agriculture, and he inspires others to do the same,” Davenport said.

Jerry Jackson addresses the audience following his receipt of the Watauga Medal.

Jerry Jackson

Jerry Jackson grew up in North Carolina’s Vance County. His father and several other relatives attended then-State College, and Jackson grew up loving the school.

When he arrived on campus, he became a bit of a Wolfpack renaissance man as a member of the Pershing Rifle Team, Army ROTC, Men’s Glee Club, Sigma Chi fraternity and Interfraternity Council. Jackson also served as the photography editor of the student newspaper, Technician, and held a part-time job in the campus print shop as a proofreader.

His wide range of interests and passions are reflected in his contributions to NC State as a volunteer, donor and advocate.

After graduating in 1964 with a degree in textile technology, Jackson enjoyed a very successful career that culminated in the chairmanship of FMI Corporation, the nation’s largest provider of management consulting and investment banking to the worldwide construction industry. He credits the mentors he had at NC State for much of his success.

Several years after Jackson left campus, a phone call from the late Banks Talley brought him back. Jackson became a charter member, then the chair, of the Arts NC State Board. Before long, he was again “all in” at the university, along with his wife, Nina.

As committed supporters of bringing the arts to NC State students and the community, the Jacksons received the university’s Bowers Medal of Arts in 2011. Their contributions include leading the campaigns to renovate Thompson Theatre and to reimagine the historic chancellor’s residence as the Gregg Museum of Art & Design.

Jackson’s voluntarism at his alma mater also has included eight years on the NC State Foundation Board, which he served as chair; service as a member and chair of the JC Raulston Arboretum Board of Advisors; and service as a member of the Arts Achieve Campaign Committee.

The 2019 recipient of the NC State Foundation Board’s Godwin Red Torch Award, he has maintained long memberships in the Friends of the Gregg and Friends of the Library as well as lifetime membership in the Alumni Association.

Members of the William Joseph Peele Lifetime Giving Society, the Jacksons have provided generous financial support that has included the Jackson Family Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment; the Jerry and Nina Jackson Endowment for Outdoor Programs at the Gregg Museum; the naming of the Jerome Jackson-Maurice Thiem Hall in Thompson Theatre; and the naming of the Rose Jackson and Evelyn Thiem Garden at the Gregg Museum.

They have supported extensive beautification at the arboretum, the Centennial Campus Art Project, the Student Emergency Fund, the Coaches Corner, the University’s Greatest Needs Fund, Our Three Winners, the Wolfpack Club and Jeffrey Wright Military and Veteran Services.

“Jerry Jackson is deeply dedicated to helping NC State continue to attract and nurture talent, and to do work that matters,” Ward said.

In January 2020, Helen Huang was named the inaugural Jackson Family Distinguished Professor in Biomedical Engineering.