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A Family Affair: How a young couple's bequests create a legacy of giving for their children
It's never too early to plan for the future, says Rachel Monteverdi. At 41, she already has amassed a lifetime of experience in public service, and she wants that legacy to thrive long after she's gone. Rachel, a Cooperative Extension agent in Warren County, and her husband, Dr. Bob Monteverdi, recently created their will, establishing 10 bequests to a number of different nonprofit organizations, including two endowments for North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Each of the couple's children is connected to the individual charities in some way, whether through an interest in construction (Habitat for Humanity) or a long-time involvement in the Boy Scouts of America. And each child is expected to serve those organizations in some way.
"We structured these gifts in a way that encourages our kids to get involved, to continue philanthropy, to ante up, not only in physical labor and energy but also in dollars," Rachel says. "We pray that they will be successful in their worlds and do good things."
The "Monteverdi Pay it Forward 4-H Scholarship Endowment" will create scholarships to any two- or four-year institution in the U.S. for current or former 4-H'ers from Durham or Wake County, North Carolina. And, income from the "Monteverdi Pay it Forward Program Endowment" will be used to support creative grant proposals in the areas of education, the environment, health, human services, parenting, women's issues and the elderly in a number of North Carolina counties.
"My heart lies in Cooperative Extension," Rachel says. And with her husband's and children's tremendous support, this legacy of giving truly has become a family affair.
When Bobby Wilder got into trouble as a child, he’d pluck a few wildflowers from his garden and stretch his arm around the corner of the house so that his mother could see only the bouquet. “When I heard her laugh, I knew everything was okay,” said Bobby.
His love of all things botanical started early, and it has sprouted into a life-long passion that has inspired Bobby to become actively involved in NC State’s JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA).
In recognition of his 1,000+ hours of volunteer service, outright gifts, and deferred endowment gifts totaling more than $500,000, the university recently named the arboretum’s visitor center as the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center.
A longtime arboretum volunteer and benefactor, Bobby created two endowments to support student internships at the arboretum, as well as a horticultural scholarship endowment in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a major gift to the arb’s Endowment for Excellence.
“I didn’t do any of this for any attention,” he said. “Any time they need me, I’m there.”
Raised on a farm in Johnston County, Bobby served four years in the U.S. Navy, then attended NC State on the GI Bill.
“It led me to want to provide for other students,” he said. “Without the GI Bill, I would have had a hard time going to college.”
After he graduated from NC State in 1959, he opened a picture-framing business, Century Framing, which still operates in Raleigh. In the spring of 1977, Bobby tagged along on a university trip to various gardens in Washington, D.C., and New York. It was then that he met JC Raulston.
“At the time, the arboretum was simply his garden … a place to do research and study plants,” Bobby said. “I helped him out there, from the very beginning, and always remained involved.”
Indeed, he’s done everything at the arboretum from moving plants to stuffing envelopes.
He also is actively involved in the Chapel Hill chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, an organization he calls “a bunch of plant lovers.” After having served as chairman for the last 14 years, he is currently the group’s treasurer.
Bobby’s late partner of 43 years, Jack, shared his passion for gardening. They traveled the world together, and it never failed that people in other countries would recognize Bobby’s JCRA cap. Bobby, who has planted gardens of all sizes, maintains a small border garden at his home in Raleigh.
“I was interested in everything, but I realized you don’t have to grow everything,” he said. “I can go to the arb. That’s my garden, too.”
When asked to name his favorite part of the arboretum, he replied, “All of it. The whole thing. It’s really getting better all the time.”
And, how long does Bobby plan to stay involved in the JC Raulston Arboretum?
Another effortless reply: “As long as I live.”
“I don’t know where I’d be without 4-H and the interest they took in me as a child,” says Jerry Hardesty.
As the tenth child of a farm family in rural North Carolina, Jerry Hardesty says his opportunities would have been limited had it not been for Cooperative Extension and 4-H.
“I don’t know where I’d be without 4-H and the interest they took in me as a child,” Jerry says. He particularly enjoyed livestock judging as a youth and figured out early that helping others would be his career. “When the county extension agent would come to help my dad, I knew that was something I wanted to do.”
After earning a 4-H scholarship and becoming the first child in his family to attend college, Jerry earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from N.C. State. He went on to serve North Carolina Cooperative Extension for 30 years, as extension director in Currituck County for 23 years and in Forsyth County for seven years.
Today, he and his wife Martha are dedicated to giving back. They recently created the Jerry and Martha Hardesty Camp Scholarship Endowment for the Eastern 4-H Center. This endowment will provide funding for 4-H scholarships to youth who are participating at the Eastern 4-H Environmental Education Conference Center. In addition, they created the Martha and Jerry Hardesty Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Endowment to provide unrestricted funding for NC Family and Consumer Sciences Foundation initiatives. Both endowments are funded through a Charitable Remainder Unitrust.
“The home economists really help people in rural counties,” Jerry says. “They make a tremendous difference in the lives of rural women, getting them involved in the community, taking them on educational trips and providing a network for communication. They dedicate their lives to these women and these communities.”
While enhancing the lives of 4-H youth and bolstering the programs of Family and Consumer Sciences, Martha and Jerry also are creating a lasting legacy of service for their four children and six grandchildren to model.
Jerry is a member of the North Carolina 4-H Development Fund and the North Carolina Family and Consumer Sciences Foundation. He currently serves as coordinator of education and development for the North Carolina Pork Council, where he monitors statewide educational programs and national industry programs.
He was instrumental in assisting the 4-H Development Fund in obtaining $11.5 million for North Carolina 4-H Camps through an appropriation from the General Assembly.
“4-H camps really make a difference in kids’ lives,” he says. “As a counselor, I saw the before-and-after.”
During his tenure in Currituck County, Jerry was the first chairman of the Coastal Resources Advisory Council and a member of the Coastal Resources Commission and the NC Marine Fisheries Commission for a number of years. He led the creation of the first rural county-wide land use zoning plan in the state, and as a result, was asked to serve on the Blue Ribbon committee to examine fragile areas of North Carolina’s coast.
One of his favorite memories from coastal Currituck County is, of all things, snow skiing. Ever year, Jerry took 4-H’ers on a ski trip to the mountains. He and his staff handled every detail, even driving the buses.
“Many of these children had never seen ski slopes,” Martha says. “You should have seen the looks on their faces … their mouths would just drop open.”
While Martha is Jerry’s staunchest supporter, she also is an accomplished business woman, having served as comptroller for American Hoechst Corp. in Chesapeake, Va.
“I was the first woman to take a management role,” she says. “I worked hard to get that position, and I loved that job.”
Because of her commitment to that community, Martha quickly became involved in the local Woman’s Club and was elected to the County Board of Education. A polio survivor, Martha was the Polio Foundation Poster Child as a youth.
“My mother was the first person who walked for dimes for Franklin Roosevelt,” she says. “She gathered up the neighborhood and walked through Asheville. Our house was quarantined, and I was on an iron lung for one year, but that didn’t stop people from coming by and leaving groceries at the door.”
Martha and Jerry are remarkable people with remarkable stories. The impact of their generosity toward Cooperative Extension, particularly 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences, will be even more remarkable to the families and youth who benefit for years to come.
Got caviar? Bill White’s vision leads to an unprecedented gift to CALS
In 2008, Bill White, visionary co-founder of La Paz, LLC passed away. When Bill was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he began looking into the best way to plan for the future of LaPaz, a sturgeon and caviar production company in Caldwell County, NC. During his lifetime, his passion and efforts were focused on establishing a facility that would give our state’s aquaculture producers the potential to be leaders in the production of one of the world’s most favored delicacies. To this day, only two other caviar producing facilities exist in the nation.
Through careful estate planning and discussions with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences academic, research and extension, and leadership, Bill gifted 56% ownership in LaPaz, LLC to the NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc. and made a stock donation to fund a $3.6 million research and demonstration program. He also made plans for the management of LaPaz, LLC to be transitioned to the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc.
As a result, CALS and LaPaz have now partnered to realize Bill White’s vision. La Paz will serve as a hands-on laboratory where NC State scientists will fine-tune the production of high quality caviar and sturgeon. A portion of the future income from La Paz, now a for-profit subsidiary of the NC Agricultural Foundation, will be reinvested in aquaculture research. And, finally, remaining future income will flow into the NC Agricultural Foundation’s competitive grants program, increasing the support it is able to provide for faculty research and extension work for North Carolina.
“It’s been so heartwarming to receive thank-you notes from students over the years, some of whom have said they couldn’t have attended college without this scholarship,” says Rachel.
Raised on a tobacco farm in Wilson County, Rachel served as an assistant home agent with responsibility for 4-H. She started her career working in rural Eastern North Carolina, and by the time she retired as an Extension food specialist, she had delivered educational programs in all 100 North Carolina counties and on the Cherokee Reservation.
Frank Thomas grew up on a large farm in Dover, Delaware, and came to NC State in 1958 as an assistant professor and food processing Extension specialist. Frank developed a coastal seafood processing program and facilities that formed the basis for the North Carolina Sea Grant Marine Advisory Services Extension Program in Carteret County. In 1995, he helped obtain legislative funding to construct NC State’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST). He later worked with other coastal counties and started mountain trout farms in Western NC.
In 2000, NC State co-workers, commercial fishermen and friends surprised the couple by established an endowment to fund the Frank Bancroft Thomas and Rachel Kirby Thomas Food Science and Family and Consumer Sciences Scholarship. Rachel and Frank added to it each year thereafter, and included provisions in their wills to help further its purpose. The annual scholarships are based on academic merit and financial need, with emphasis on production and utilization of aquatic foods and applied research efforts in seafood technology.
“It’s been so heartwarming to receive thank-you notes from students over the years, some of whom have said they couldn’t have attended college without this scholarship.”
In 2004, the Thomases created a second endowment, in recognition of Rachel’s lifetime connection to 4-H. The Rachel Kirby and Dr. Frank Bancroft Thomas 4-H Foods and Nutrition Endowment provides awards to deserving 4-Hers and scholarships to those who excelled in the foods and nutrition programs.
(As an extension agent) “I was seeing poverty firsthand,” Rachel said. “I became very concerned about health issues. After those experiences, it was my desire to do all I could to improve the quality of life for people in North Carolina.”
Sadly, Frank passed away in July 2007. Still, “establishing these scholarships was such a rewarding experience for us,” Rachel asserts. “I really challenge other people to do this.”
“When my husband was dying, he told me that every year for my birthday; I was to buy something special for myself from him. The first year, it was a new faucet; the second year, I bought a garage door opener; then it was a mailbox, and so on. Today, I know he’s looking down on us, saying, ‘Princess, I think you finally got it right,'" says Rose.
Rose Phillip’s fingers work nimbly, almost magically transforming a simple piece of ribbon into a small yellow rose. This intricate task – the twisting and folding of something plain into something beautiful – is second nature to Rose. As is her generosity.
In 2007, Rose created the Rose and Ed Phillips Horticulture Scholarship Endowment in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which will provide support for an annual need- or merit-based scholarship for a deserving student.
Rose, who has been nationally recognized by the floral industry for her accomplishments in floral design, taught horticulture seminars at NC State on topics ranging from design to business management.
“I spent eight wonderful years teaching at NC State,” she says. “I loved the kids. I loved every minute of it.”
She says that the endowment is intended to support future horticulturists, as well as to honor her late husband, Ed.
Within just a few weeks of meeting Rose, she says, Ed rearranged his schedule to fly to Hawaii, where she was attending a conference. “He greeted my plane with a beautiful l of orchids and had two dozen roses put in my room,” she recounts. “Then, he proposed on the beach, and the rest was history. Ed was the love of my life.”
In addition to giving lectures at NC State, Rose also taught at Johnston County Community College, conducted demonstrations at the North Carolina State Fair’s Horticultural Show and operated a successful floral business. She has won a number of awards for her work and has arranged flowers for two Presidential inaugural balls.
Ed Phillips served in the U.S. Navy, receiving personal letters of commendation, various campaign ribbons and the Bronze Star. He worked for the American Can Co. for 37 years, where he met Rose. The two were actively involved in the floral industry, most notably as members of the Academy of Florists. Ed passed away in 1996.
At the endowment signing ceremony, which happened to fall on Rose’s 76th birthday, she said, “When my husband was dying, he told me that every year for my birthday, I was to buy something special for myself from him. The first year, it was a new faucet; the second year, I bought a garage door opener; then it was a mailbox, and so on. Today, I know he’s looking down on us, saying, ‘Princess, I think you finally got it right.’”
“We want to give something that will last – that we can build on.”
Known as the “Wolfpackers” among their neighbors, Ray and Ellen Woodard turn on the television for one thing only: NC State games.
Indeed, the couple’s blood runs Wolfpack red. Ray dedicated 31 years of his career to the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an Extension swine specialist, pioneering a number of programs in swine genetics. This legacy continues as he and Ellen have created the first-ever endowed professorship in the Department of Animal Science.
“We always knew we wanted to give something to N.C. State,” Ellen says.
The Woodards have touched the lives of many, not only through education and scientific innovation, but also by dedicated service and compassion for others. Through this generous endowment, the Woodards will continue to create opportunities not only for the university, but also for the people of North Carolina, for generations to come.
Department head Roger McCraw adds, “This tremendous gift will be very important as we look toward the future, and it will have a huge impact.”
Born in Spring Hope, N.C., in 1924, Ray served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He graduated from N.C. State in 1949, but never really left the university, beginning work with Cooperative Extension that same year. After his retirement from the College, Ray was named Professor Emeritus. His career is marked by significant accomplishments that laid the groundwork for the swine industry’s growth.
Ellen, who grew up in Everetts, N.C., devoted her career to teaching elementary school. She served students in three different North Carolina school systems over a span of 30 years.
Ray and Ellen married in 1951, and they now reside at Belle Meade in Southern Pines, N.C.
While Ray battles Parkinson’s disease today, his heart and mind are very much connected to the university, the college and the swine industry.
“We’ve had a full, happy life,” Ellen says. “We’ve been blessed, and we count our blessings daily.”