Benny Suggs, executive director of the NC State Alumni Association, associate vice chancellor for alumni relations and a 1969 graduate of the university, received North Carolina’s prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine during a reception on Jan. 21.
Among the most prominent awards conferred by the governor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine acknowledges exemplary service that goes beyond the call of duty, makes a significant impact and strengthens North Carolina.
“This is a tremendous honor, but none of it would’ve happened if I had not had the opportunity to come to NC State. I was fortunate to get a great education and go off and fulfill my dream as a naval aviator.”
Suggs, a Columbus County native, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at NC State before beginning a 30-year career in the U.S. Navy, during which he received Defense Meritorious and Distinguished Service medals, five Legion of Merit medals and two Navy Commendation medals.
He retired from active duty in 2000 with the rank of rear admiral. That same year, Suggs began a career in senior management at Harley-Davidson Motor Company. In 2010, Suggs — with his wife, Kellie, and their son, Nicholas — returned to his home state so he could lead his alma mater’s Alumni Association.
A generous NC State supporter and a member of the Chancellor’s Circle, Suggs has also served on the Board of Advisors for the Shelton Leadership Center since its founding 16 years ago. Suggs said he returned to the university because he wanted to do everything he could “to make NC State as great as it can possibly be.” Having his son grow up “in the shadow of the Belltower” was also important, he said.
Fellow NC State alumnus and Order of the Long Leaf Pine recipient Burley Mitchell, retired chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, presented Suggs with the award certificate on behalf of former Gov. Pat McCrory, who approved the recognition before he left office.
“Benny Suggs has been a loyal citizen and contributor to North Carolina and the nation for three or four decades — at the national level as a fleet admiral and then in the corporate world and now here at NC State,” Mitchell said. “He is certainly a tremendously deserving recipient. I was proud to be able to present it to him on behalf of the governor.”