Skip to main content

Generous Gift from Lee and Sunny Allen to Fund International Studies for Forestry Students

A well-traveled life can change you. Alumni Lee and Sunny Allen believe it can also change the world.

A well-traveled life can change you. Lee and Sunny Allen believe it can also change the world. The educators who have dedicated the bulk of their academic lives and love to NC State University have created an endowment that will make it possible for students to learn about ecosystems, wildlife and forestry operations around the world.

The Allen International Travel Endowment provides support for undergraduate and/or graduate students pursuing a degree in the College of Natural Resources’ Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources who want to travel internationally —  especially those travelling overseas for the first time.

Lee and Sunny met at the University of Maine while pursuing their undergraduate degrees. They came to NC State in 1978, Lee to pursue a Ph.D. and Sunny to pursue a master’s degree. Lee earned his Ph.D. in 1981 and was a professor of forestry until his retirement in 2008. Sunny earned her master’s in wildlife ecology and taught in the Department of Biological Sciences at NC State until 1995, when she joined the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

The couple has two adult children. Their son graduated from NC State in computer engineering. Their daughter, a systems engineer, graduated from Florida Institute of Technology. 

“We had no idea we would end up spending the rest of our careers in Raleigh,” Lee said. “The real connection to NC State for us came through our work on the faculty, with the students that we interacted with, mentored and taught.”

Part of that work included frequent international travel. “We always enjoyed those experiences as ecologists. We do spend a lot of time outdoors in our travels and we have had the opportunity to see how ecosystems, plant communities, wildlife and humans interact in different locations,” Lee said. “We didn’t have those opportunities as undergraduates.”

It’s more important than ever to think globally when climate change has become a matter of great debate and urgency. One person, one country working alone can’t solve these challenges, Sunny said.

“Traveling internationally gives me a totally different perspective on the world. It’s a much broader perspective. And what I see all the time is that people have so much more in common than we have differences. I think experiencing other places is important because it makes you a more open-minded person.”

Lee and Sunny hope students who travel to see how other countries care for their forests, rivers and oceans, and inhabitants — human and animal — broadens horizons and spreads knowledge that could make the world a better place.

“We come to these issues, very similar issues — land use practices, habitat loss, climate change — from different cultures using different languages,” Sunny said. “But we’re all in this together. And that’s how sustainability is going to be solved.”

This story was written by Beth Grace for the NC State College of Natural Resources.

This post was originally published in College of Natural Resources News.