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North Carolina Sea Grant Extension Director Honored

Extension Director Jack Thigpen recognized for two decades of service to Sea Grant

Adapted from original post by North Carolina Sea Grant

When the national Sea Grant office asks the network of 33 programs for examples of outstanding community outreach and collaboration, one name is often suggested: North Carolina Sea Grant‘s Jack Thigpen.

Thigpen, who retired as North Carolina Sea Grant’s Extension Director at the end of March 2018, was recognized for his two decades of service with state and regional honors. He received the Old North State Award — signed by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper — for “dedication and service beyond expectation and excellence to the State of North Carolina.”

Thigpen also received a Career Extension Award for Vision and Leadership from the Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant Region, which includes programs from New York to North Carolina. In presenting that award, Tom Murray, the recently retired director of Virginia Sea Grant’s extension program, cited the importance of Thigpen’s collaboration and leadership not only to the region, but also to the national network of Sea Grant programs.

“Jack has always been willing to help,” adds Murray, who was also recognized by the Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant region for his service. 

Thigpen joined North Carolina Sea Grant in 1998 as an extension specialist with a focus on coastal recreation and tourism and brought with him an extensive social science background focusing on natural resources and rural communities (Thigpen has a master’s in Agricultural Economics and a doctorate in Sociology). He was initially based on the Outer Banks, but his work served the entire coastal region.

“Lessons from those years, along with his family connections in coastal plain communities, his engaging personality and his professional training as a sociologist, combined to serve him as he moved to Raleigh to lead the extension program,” North Carolina Sea Grant executive director Susan White notes.

Thigpen’s skills were at the forefront of the state program’s recent and intensive strategic planning process. “He put his heart and soul into this process to confirm our updated focus areas, as well as to refine our goals so that they align with ongoing critical needs for coastal ecosystems, economies and emerging issues. The resulting plan is an excellent guide for our research and outreach in the coming years,” White adds.

Thigpen played key roles in helping advance both state and national Sea Grant programs, including through his service as the Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant Region coordinator from 2003-2005 and as the chair of the National Sea Grant Assembly of Extension Leaders from 2007-2008.

Thigpen also has served as a key advisor to regional economic development efforts, such as local seafood education for chefs and consumers, and nature tourism including paddling trails. An avid birder, he was a founding member of the North Carolina Birding Trail and continued to be active with the trail leadership over the past decade.

Contact: Katie Mosher,, 919-515-9069

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