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Benny Suggs Sets Course for Retirement

Benny Suggs, left, listens as Chancellor Randy Woodson addresses alumni at a reception on board the USS North Carolina in 2010.

The final professional farewell of Chancellor Randy Woodson’s first hire — Alumni Association Executive Director Benny Suggs — included one last plan of action, one last “Go Wolfpack” and one last title given to the outgoing leader.

Last Wednesday in the Park Alumni Center ballroom, Woodson conferred on Suggs the official title of “Emeritus Executive Director of the North Carolina State Alumni Association.”

Suggs, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, was hired in 2010 to lead the Alumni Association at a time when it was facing a financial crisis, leaving his job as an executive at Harley-Davidson in Wisconsin to return to his alma mater.

Why would he do such a thing?

Suggs easily and often explained his reasoning with the simple line “A calling trumps a career.”

Suggs was first called to NC State from rural Columbus County. He earned a degree in psychology in 1969 and was accepted into the U.S. Navy’s flight training program. Over a 30-year career as an aviator and officer, Suggs commanded ships, was deployed on multiple combat missions and rose to the rank of rear admiral before his retirement in 2000.

For the last 12 years, Suggs led the organization and represented NC State’s 270,000 living alumni at meetings, oyster roasts, private dinners and all manner of events that celebrated the university’s accomplishments, including the recent completion of the $2.1 billion Think and Do the Extraordinary campaign.

He not only expanded both the membership and the staff of the Alumni Association but also led the organization through a major rebranding effort.

Throughout, Suggs maintained an unshakable and contagious enthusiasm for NC State. He announced his retirement earlier this year.

“Benny deserves a lot of credit for so many good things that have happened here,” said Woodson, who made hiring the former naval officer one of his first priorities. “We are better off for it.

“Congratulations, Benny, on all of your careers.”

This post was originally published in NC State News.