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Alumni Magazine

Futrell, Gordon honored by the University with Watauga Medals

Exterior closeup photo of metal sculpture of wolf with lowered head, green leaves and shrubbery in the background.
One of the copper wolves near the Free Expression Tunnel at Wolf Plaza. Photo by Becky Kirkland.

Two College of Engineering alumni received the Watauga Medal, NC State’s highest nonacademic honor, for 2021. Glenn Futrell and Suzanne Gordon were honored by the University during a program on Sept. 9.

The Watauga Medal was established in 1975 by the Board of Trustees to honor people who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the University. The name derives from the Watauga Club, a progressive group founded in 1884 by young men under the age of 30 who wanted to promote the educational, agricultural and industrial development of the state.

Glenn Futrell with wife, Phyllis.

A native of Wayne County, NC, Futrell graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering in 1963 and 1965, respectively.

Futrell founded Soil & Materials Engineers, which grew to be the fifth-largest geotechnical engineering firm in the U.S. before being sold in 1987 to Westinghouse. He moved into the real estate development business and began work on Pirates Cove — a residential community and marina in Manteo, NC — as well as developments in Zebulon, Cary and Chapel Hill, NC.

Futrell credits NC State with not only providing a solid classroom education, but with teaching him work ethic and the lifelong value of being good at what you do and enjoying it. He says a stroke of luck led him to a master’s degree in soils and geotechnical engineering (instead of transportation or structures, which were his first choices but had no graduate student projects available when he was ready to start) and to his successful career.

He has supported the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering by endowing scholarships and two named professorships and has donated to support construction of Fitts-Woolard Hall, the department’s new home on Centennial Campus. Futrell served on the NC State Engineering Foundation (NCSEF) board of directors for 20 years; two of those years were as president.

“I love the University and I’ve always wanted to give back,” he said.

Suzanne Gordon
Suzanne Gordon

For Gordon, it’s a culmination of years of service to her alma mater. She earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics in 1975 and master’s degree in statistics in 1980. During her more than 30 years at SAS Institute, she held a variety of key leadership roles, rising to vice president of information technology, and eventually chief information officer, at the world’s largest privately held software company.

She has served on the NCSEF board and was its first woman president. She has also been a member of the Board of Trustees, the Alumni Association Board of Directors and on the College of Management Advisory Board. She is a Distinguished Alumna of both the College of Engineering and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

“I’m humbled and honored because of all of the great people who have received it,” Gordon said of the medal, citing several engineering alumni who have received the award in recent years.

She and her husband, Ralph Gordon, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from NC State, have created multiple scholarship endowments at the University to help students in multiple disciplines. Both of their children and a daughter-in-law also attended the University.

“We’re just an NC State family,” she said.