Dustin and Kristin Mountcastle don’t know where they would be without NC State University. The alumni couple credits the university with preparing them for burgeoning careers and providing them with lifelong friends and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
And last — but certainly not least — a mutual love of Wolfpack athletics brought Dustin and Kristin together. The two first met at a tailgate in 2003 when the NC State football team played in — and handily won — the Gator Bowl.
“NC State was really the launching pad for my entire life up to this point,” said Kristin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the university in 2004. She and Dustin are championing this year’s Recent Grad Challenge, which encourages young alumni to give back to the university.
Kristin and Dustin know firsthand just how critical private support can be for NC State students.
Without scholarship support, the couple might never have met. Dustin, who grew up in Virginia, said a merit-based scholarship from the NC State Pulp and Paper Foundation piqued his interest in the university and ultimately made attending NC State as an out-of-state student a possibility.
“The tuition would’ve been too much for my family had it not been for a merit-based scholarship from the Pulp and Paper Foundation. It’s the whole reason that I was there at NC State,” said Dustin, who earned bachelor’s degrees in pulp and paper science and technology and chemical engineering in 2003.
“My experience at NC State was completely life changing,” he said. The Mountcastles, who now live in Charlotte, have remained strong supporters of their alma mater in the years since they graduated and started their careers.
The annual Recent Grad Challenge runs through Nov. 24 and supports both NC State and the larger community. Gifts from alumni who graduated during the past 10 years count toward the challenge.
If 400 young alumni give back to any area of the university during the challenge period, Prestage Farms Inc. will donate 200 turkeys to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Additionally, Dustin and Kristin have committed $50,000 to establish a scholarship endowment at NC State if 600 young alumni give during the campaign.
“What I love so much about this challenge in particular is that it is twofold,” Kristin said. “The timing is perfect. It’s right around the holidays — Thanksgiving in particular — and everybody has giving on their mind.”
The Dustin S. and Kristin D. Mountcastle Scholarship Endowment will support students from underrepresented groups whose major is in the Department of Forest Biomaterials.
“That is an area where we can use diverse thought and diverse backgrounds to push the envelope,” Dustin said. Over time, he and Kristin plan to broaden their support to other areas at NC State.
Kristin said the couple considers their support of the university a long-term investment.
Although NC State has more than 30,000 students, both Dustin and Kristin said they were able to build strong relationships with faculty, which they say were instrumental in the development of their careers.
“The faculty that were available to me always had an open-door policy,” Kristin said. “I developed great relationships with many of my professors.”
Coming to such a large university, Dustin initially thought he would miss the small-town environment in which he grew up.
“I worried that I might get lost in the sea of so many people and so many students within the NC State family. But for me, the pulp and paper program — and the faculty within that program — had that small-town feel,” he said. “Professors cared about you and your future, and they made the content come alive so you enjoyed it.”
It is those types of experiences the Mountcastles hope to make available to even more students through scholarship support, which helps the university recruit top students and those who would not otherwise be able to afford a college education.
Dustin encourages other young alumni to give back through donations of any size or even volunteering.
“Think about the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life. How blessed are we to have that opportunity?” he said.