Nutrition Institute gets $1 million endowment

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2012

UNC Nutrition Research Institute
KANNAPOLIS — Alan T. Dickson, a member of the Board of Advisers of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute at the N.C. Research Campus, has made a pledge that will create a $1 million endowment fund at the Research Institute.
Dickson made a joint gift of $666,000 from the Dickson Foundation and Harris Teeter, a subsidiary of Ruddick Corp., which Dickson and his brother, Stuart, built. The gift will be matched with $334,000 from the N.C. Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust.
This gift will create the NRI’s first endowed distinguished professorship, The Dickson Foundation-Harris Teeter Distinguished Professorship in Nutrition. Once fully endowed, this professorship will generate an annual disbursement to support a designated Nutrition Research Institute faculty member and foster scientific discovery.
A Charlotte native, Alan Dickson first visited the institute in Kannapolis in 2010. After a few hours of exploring laboratories and discussing the research facility’s vision with Director Dr. Steven H. Zeisel, he accepted an invitation to serve on the its board of advisers.
Just a few months later, Dickson took a particular interest in the institute’s faculty recruitment efforts. “One of the greatest challenges in building a world class center, particularly one that is located two hours from its ‘traditional’ campus, is creating intellectual capital,” Zeisel said. “Yet we know the strength and ultimate success of the center rests in our ability to recruit the best scientists.”
Dickson agreed to spearhead a board effort to generate five privately funded, endowed distinguished professorships to help the NRI attract great scientific minds.
“We are pleased to make this gift to the NRI,” Dickson said. “It makes sense for Harris Teeter to take a leading role in developing the future of nutrition, and we believe in the NRI’s mission of customizing diet recommendations specific to an individual, in an effort to optimize wellness,” he said. “With this gift, we are making an investment in the future health of people in Charlotte, across North Carolina, and around the world. At the same time, we are building a new economic engine for the Charlotte region.”
Dickson, a former chairman of the board at Ruddick Corp., is a business and community leader and has served on the boards of numerous corporations, schools and foundations. He was a trustee of the Morehead Foundation for 42 years and served as chairman for 21 years until retirement.
He has received numerous awards, including the Watauga Medal from N.C. State University and the Spirit Award from the Mint Museum of Art. In 2006, Dickson received the William Richardson Davie Award from the UNC board of trustees, its highest honor, in recognition of his extraordinary service to the university.
Both Alan and his wife Mary Anne have been supporters of UNC for many years, and this is the latest demonstration of their commitment to the university’s mission to not only serve its students, but also the state of North Carolina, the nation and the world as well. Mary Anne Dickson heads the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council, a network of women committed to supporting the university and the educational experiences of students.
Through Dickson’s service on the board, he has championed the Nutrition Research Institute to Charlotte-area business leaders and opened doors for a host of collaborations. From early on, he attended faculty presentations where he learned about research spanning the field of nutrition — from how different nutrients affect the developing memory of babies to new tools that make custom-tailored, genetically-based diet recommendations possible.
“Alan is a tremendous asset to the NRI,” Zeisel said. “With his advice and expertise, we are paving the way for the NRI to become a world leader in nutrition science. He understands the importance of a strong foundation and is a valuable sounding board for initiating new ventures and developing our tactical strengths.”
The Dickson Foundation-Harris Teeter Distinguished Professorship in Nutrition is being called an essential cornerstone for the Research Institute. An endowed chair is a recognized measure of respect and achievement that also supports the research of the faculty recipient.
“This is a transformative gift for the NRI, an important historical landmark in our development,” Zeisel said. “Alan Dickson is a true pioneer, and we are proud to have him with us at the helm of economic development and scientific innovation. We hope that others will follow his lead, take a personal interest in our center and help us become the world’s leading center for nutrition science research.”