North Carolina Awards

North Carolina Award Medal

Established by the General Assembly in 1961, the North Carolina Award is the highest civilian honor given by the state. Presented annually since 1964, the award recognizes significant contributions to the state and nation in the fields of fine art, literature, public service and science. Though given by the governor, the award is adminsitered by our agency.

Since its inception, more than 250 notable men and women have been honored by the state of North Carolina. Past recipients include William Friday, Romare Bearden, James Taylor, Gertrude Elion, John Hope Franklin, David Brinkley, Maya Angelou, Billy Graham and Branford Marsalis.

Learn More About the Award's History and See a Complete List of Winners

The Nomination Process

Nominations for the 2015 awards cycle closed in late April of this year. Anyone can submit nominations, which are considered by a five-member committee appointed by the governor. That committe makes recommendations to the governor, who makes the final decision.

Nominations for the 2016 cycle will open in February or March 2016.

The 2014 North Carolina Award Winners

Last year's North Carolina Award recipetnts were Dr. Betsy M. Bennett of Raleigh for Public Service; Robert A. Ingram of Durham for Public Service; Lenard D. Moore of Raleigh for Literature; Dr. Jagdish (Jay) Narayan of Raleigh for Science; Alan Shapiro of Chapel Hill for Literature and Ira David Wood III of Raleigh for Fine Arts. 

Public Service: Dr. Betsy M. Bennett

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is Betsy Bennett's vision fulfilled - a place where, regardless of age or stage of learning, visitors don't just see science and nature displayed, they engage in it. Bennett served as the museum's director for more than 20 years, transforming it from exhibit space in a cramped state office building to a landmark, pioneering institution that has garnered national recognition and record attendance. She altered the skyline of Raleigh - twice - and created a global destination for science and understanding that will inspire generations. To get there she snared dinosaurs, recruited world class scientists, won over legislators and enlisted a platoon of financial supporters. The new Museum of Natural Sciences opened in 2000 and Bennett immediately began work on the Nature Research Center, which opened in 2011. The duet attracted 1.2 million tourists in 2012, making it the most visited attraction in North Carolina. Bennett is a past president of the Association of Science Museum Directors, among other professional leadership posts. She serves on the boards of the Kenan Institute for Science & Engineering, the North Carolina Botanical Garden, Triangle Land Conservancy, Kidzu Children's Museum and others.

Public Service: Robert A. Ingram

The scope of the professional career and public service in the life of Robert "Bob" Ingram includes familiar names from the worlds of pharmaceuticals and charities. He co-led the merger that formed GlaxoSmithKline. He serves or has served on the boards or as director to Valeant, Cree, Quintiles and others. He was asked by President George H.W. Bush to form the CEO Roundtable on Cancer and appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Institutes of Health Cancer Advisory Board. He serves on the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy board and believes American students should be globally competitive. He is chairman of the Research Triangle Foundation, Glaxo Foundation and a partner in Hatteras Ventures Partners, seeking venture capital to fund the next bright idea in the science or medical field. He has been on the cover of Business Leader and Forbes Magazines. He is a leader who listens, brings out the best in individuals and organizations and has received numerous awards and recognitions. In the more than 50 organizations and agencies on which he has been sought and served, Ingram has brought vision, energy, compassion, intelligence and the urge to help people live their best life. These are gifts he shares with others, and the world is better for it. 

Literature: Lenard D. Moore

Lenard D. Moore believes in the magic and the music of words. The experiences of his eastern North Carolina roots spring forth in the poems, short stories and haiku that flow from him. Whether writing about jazz musicians, the smell of war or the music of elm trees, he concisely transports the reader to each specific time or place. His power with the economical use of words is best illustrated in the haiku, a Japanese form traditionally of three lines totaling 17 syllables. He mastered the form so well that he became the first Southerner and the first African American to be president of the Haiku Society of America. He is winner of the Haiku Museum of Tokyo Award and executive chairman of the North Carolina Haiku Society. For all of his awards and recognitions, he considers teaching his most important work. Currently a professor at the University of Mount Olive, he organizes its literary festival and teaches and mentors young writers. He is founder of the Carolina African American Writers Collective and co-founder of the Washington Street Writers Group. He inspires and encourages all students to do their best work. His essays and reviews have appeared in more than 350 publications, poetry in over 40 anthologies and his work has been translated in several languages. His achievements as poet, mentor and teacher earn him a place of recognition in the rich North Carolina literary pantheon. 

Science: Dr. Jagdish (Jay) Narayan

There are innovators who move societies forward, and Dr. Jagdish (Jay) Narayan is one of them. As visionaries led beyond the agricultural, industrial and information ages, he leads into the age of nanotechnology. As the John Fan Family Distinguished Chair Professor in the Department of Material Science and Engineering at N.C. State University, he continues research on infinitely small nano-materials. These will yield more efficient use of energy, more flexible metals and stronger ceramic materials. Narayan discovered how to manipulate atoms and control Mother Nature, so that molecules are directed to perform as desired. This groundbreaking research led to the LED light bulb, and his work was cited by 2014 Nobel Prize winners for physics who created blue light. His work makes semiconductors smarter. Narayan foresees automobile engines that could get 100 miles per gallon and new materials for the exploration of space. He is heralded for seminal contributions by his peers worldwide, and is recipient of three most prestigious awards, including the Robert Franklin Mehl Award, the Acta Materialia Gold Medal and Prize and the ASM Gold Medal. He is one of only five scientists alive to receive this triple crown. He holds more than 40 patents, has published over 500 scientific papers, edited nine books and has mentored more than 100 Ph.D. and postdoctoral students. Through his research and teaching, he brings us tomorrow today.

Literature: Alan Shapiro

Alan Shapiro, Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is among the nation's most distinguished poets. He takes on difficult topics, including loss and grief, but he also celebrates the daily lives of real people. Born and raised in Boston, Shapiro is the author of 12 books of poetry (including Night of the Republic, a finalist for both the National Book Award and The Griffin Prize), two memoirs (The Last Happy Occasion, which was a finalist for the National Book Circle Critics Award in autobiography, and Vigil), a novel (Broadway Baby), a book of critical essays (In Praise of the Impure: Poetry and the Ethical Imagination) and two translations (The Oresteia by Aeschylus and The Trojan Women by Euripides, both published by Oxford University Press). Shapiro's poems have appeared in more than 40 journals and magazines, including The New Yorker. Twice Shapiro has received the highest prize for a North Carolina poet, the Roanoke-Chowan Award. Twice he received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Other awards have come from the Los Angeles Times, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Wellesley College and the Poetry Society of America. Shapiro was elected in 2004 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at Stanford University, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Warren Wilson College. 

Fine Arts: Ira David Wood III

Over the course of 40 years, in excess of a million people have witnessed David Wood's bravura performance as the miserly Dickens villain in A Christmas Carol at Theatre in the Park, where Wood is executive director. A graduate of The North Carolina School of the Arts, he was raised in Enfield, N.C., and became his hometown's first Eagle Scout. Summers during his college years were spent as a leading actor in The Lost Colony, the oldest outdoor drama in the country. Wood wrote and directed the Opening Ceremonies for the Summer Olympic Festival - the largest single event ever held in North Carolina. His original production, A Capitol Idea, was the highlight of Raleigh's Bicentennial celebration. Four of his original productions have aired on WRAL-TV. Two of his original plays (Eros & Illinois and Requiem For a King) have had extended runs off-Broadway. His script, Requiem For a King, has been optioned by Motown Productions.Wood has often been credited with raising the bar of theatrical excellence in the Triangle area, as well as initiating dynamic outreach programming now adopted by many other theatre organizations. His list of honors include: The Order of the Long Leaf Pine (State of N.C.), The Halifax Resolves Award (Halifax County Historical Association), The Morrison Award (Roanoke Island Historical Association), Distinguished Alumni Award (UNC School of the Arts) and the Builder of Bridges Award (Babcock Center Foundation). He has been presented three keys to The City of Raleigh as well as honorary citizenship awards from Columbia, S.C., and Compiegne, France. Consistently voted Best Local Actor in decades of public opinion polls, Wood has managed to accumulate impressive film and television credits, having appeared on screen with such stars as Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Neil Patrick Harris, Cliff Robertson, Matthew Modine, James Earl Jones, Burt Reynolds and Louise Fletcher. Wood is the author of A Lover's Guide To The Outer Banks and Confessions Of An Elf. He is also a contributing author to Murder In Dealey Plaza: What We Know Now That We Didn't Know Then. An award-winning playwright, his original script entitled Finale was recently published.  

Annual Awards Gala

The 2015 North Carolina Awards Gala will beheld Thursday, November 12 at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham. Tickets will go on sale in the late summer or early fall. If you'd like to be notified by email when tickets go on sale, sign up here.

If you weren't able to attend, you can see a recap of the event on social media, and see photos from the ceremony and banquet on Flickr.

Video Tributes to the 2014 Winners

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