The first Chancellor’s Legacy Award - Willie Deese, Dr. Velma Speight and Dr. Edward Fort

N.C. A&T Honors Three with Legacy Award

North Carolina A&T State University honored three outstanding individuals with the first Chancellor’s Legacy Award on Saturday, April 23 during the university’s 125th Anniversary Scholarship Gala.

The formal event was a continuation of anniversary festivities, but the honor belonged to Willie Deese, Dr. Velma Speight and Dr. Edward Fort. Having demonstrated distinct, outstanding and exemplary dedication to N.C. A&T all created an individual legacy deemed worthy of admiration and emulation. The three were honored for philanthropy, alumni service and education, respectively.

Deese successfully rose through the ranks of corporate America to become the executive vice president and president of the manufacturing division of Merck & Co. overseeing more than 80 manufacturing and distribution sites in more than 30 countries around the world. He has served in leadership positions across the country yet continues to give back to A&T by way of service and philanthropy. With nearly $4 million dollars in gifts to the university, Deese’s generosity has led to the funding of many students’ education through the establishment of scholarships, support for enhanced faculty development and unrestricted support for various university divisions. Most recently he was honored as the benefactor for the Deese Clock Tower, which stands as the university’s tallest and most centralized structure.     

Known as “Miss Aggie Pride,” Speight’s relationship with the university began when she was 15 years old, only $1.50 in her pocket and quite a bit of trepidation. She rose to the occasion to graduate with degrees in mathematics and French. While Speight has worked as a professional educator for more than 45 years, she also served as the president of the N.C. A&T National Alumni Association where she established a scholars program. Forty years after graduating, she returned to her alma mater to serve as director of Alumni Affairs and executive director of the alumni association. She has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the university and directly to students. Speight continues to serve tirelessly for the university as a volunteer recruiter and mentor. The main lobby of the A&T Alumni-Foundation Events Center was also named in her honor.   

Fort served A&T as the institution’s eighth chancellor from September 1981-June 1999. He is chancellor emeritus of the university and serves as a professor of leadership studies in the School of Education. During his tenure as chancellor, he guided the university to national prominence as a leader in engineering and technology education, expanded academic programs and enrollment, awarded its first doctoral degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering and completed more than $50 million in new construction and $30 million in renovations. The Edward B. Fort Interdisciplinary Research Center was named in his honor and houses research laboratories and offices of the Division of Research and Economic Development.

The Chancellor's Legacy Award recipients have given unselfishly of their time, talent and treasure over the decades to N.C. A&T. They embody preeminence and a legacy that ultimately benefits others.