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An enduring Foundation

Image of Dean J. Harold Lampe
Dean J. Harold Lampe

The North Carolina Engineering Foundation was founded in fall 1944 by a group of 49 business leaders interested in promoting engineering in North Carolina and, by extension, growing the state’s economy.

The organization, renamed the NC State Engineering Foundation, Inc. (NCSEF) in 1999, has continued that tradition ever since. The Foundation marks its diamond anniversary in 2019.

North Carolina Gov. J. Melville Broughton served as the Foundation’s first president. Early on, the group pledged that its funds would not go toward equipment or building construction, only to supplement state salary funds so that what was then the School of Engineering could attract the best faculty members available. And the first order of business was to attract a new dean.

Dr. J. Harold Lampe came to NC State in 1945 and would serve 17 years, the longest term of any NC State engineering dean. During his tenure, Lampe would expand the engineering curricula, create the Department of Nuclear Engineering and the Industrial Extension Service and oversee the construction of three new engineering buildings on campus.

By the late 1970s, Foundation endowment funds totaled just under $1 million. Areas that those monies supported had expanded to include undergraduate merit scholarships and graduate fellowships and support for the College’s Minority and Women’s programs.

A broader reach

Today, the Engineering Foundation has built endowment funds available to the College of more than $143 million. That endowment helps support scholarships, fellowships, professorships, academic programs, faculty research and other initiatives that are not typically supported through state appropriations.

Over the last five years, the Foundation has brought in an average of $21.6 million per year in new funding.

The NCSEF staff has also led fundraising to support Fitts-Woolard Hall, the newest engineering building on Centennial Campus and the first building project at NC State using a public-private funding model.

Today, a staff of 12 is led by a 36-member board of directors. Foundation President Suzanne S. Gordon is the first woman to head the board. NCSEF hired Griffin Lamb as its new executive director this spring (see story).

In recent decades, the Foundation has expanded the number and diversity of its board members, implemented a more robust strategic planning process and significantly increased outreach to younger alumni.

The NCSEF board has also been increasingly directly involved in identifying, meeting with and cultivating alumni and asking them to give back to the College both with their time and personal resources.

Having an independent fundraising organization supporting the College helps provide vital private monies beyond what state appropriations make possible. Attracting the best students and faculty members with the help of NCSEF funds can make the difference between a good college of engineering and a preeminent one.

Tom McPherson, a Foundation board member and past president, likens it to a basketball game. Just a few plays, a break here or there, can make the difference. Especially in a closely matched contest.

“We can make the difference between having a win with a potential student or faculty member and not having a win,” McPherson said.

Learn more about the Foundation at

Return to contents or download the Spring/Summer 2019 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, 13.7MB).

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