NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles has named alumnus Kent Hester the 2016 Leader of the Year. He will receive his award at a banquet on April 18.

The award is bestowed annually to an individual who has shown outstanding leadership qualities that have moved the textile industry forward in innovative ways. Members of the Kappa Tau Beta leadership fraternity and Phi Psi professional textile fraternity choose the recipient who best represents the goals and ideals of the two Wilson College of Textiles student-led fraternities.

The selection of Hester represents a bit of a departure for the award, which typically honors a textile industry executive. But as director of Student and Career Services for the Wilson College of Textiles, Hester has played an integral role in shaping the future of textiles through his unyielding dedication to student and alumni success. His deep relationships with industry combined with his commitment to providing students with every opportunity to achieve have helped the Wilson College of Textiles consistently achieve post-graduation placement rates of more than 90 percent.

“Kent is one of the most deserving leaders to receive this award. Not only is he excellent at helping students network with textile companies and industry members, but he is passionate about his job. He is always willing to take extra time out of his day to help a student, attend a student organization meeting, or meet with a prospective student who walks through the doors,” said Brook Anderson, Kappa Tau Beta Leadership Fraternity President.

Hester has been in Student and Career Services at the College for nearly 20 years. He oversees high school recruiting, coordinates the Centennial scholarship process, advises student groups, and provides counseling and placement. Throughout the academic year he hosts resume, interview, and career planning and summer employment workshops for textile students. In addition to preparing students for internships and entry-level positions, he also helps alumni with continuing career assistance.

“Kent’s dedication to Wilson College of Textiles’ students is legendary,” said Dr. David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles. “He has a remarkable legacy of advancing the textiles industry by enabling the professional and personal development of future leaders. From his leadership of the highly competitive and successful Centennial Scholarship process to preparing students and engaging companies for our renowned annual Career Fair, Kent leads by example with a truly tireless work ethic. His understanding of the textiles industry and the companies who hire our graduates helps him guide our students to positions and opportunities where they can thrive and lead.”

Hester received his bachelor’s degree in Textile and Apparel Management from the Wilson College of Textiles in May of 1990. While a student, he was a member of both of the fraternities now recognizing him as well as the Tompkins Textile Student Council and the American Association of Textile Technology. As a college senior, Kent served as a high school recruiter for the Wilson College of Textiles before going to work as a human resources management trainee for Burlington Industries following graduation. After his brief time working in industry, he returned to the College as the assistant director of Student Services and director of the Textile Alumni Society. Not long after, he was named associate director of Student Services, and in 2002 he was promoted to his current position.

While Hester has been recognized with awards before, including the Wilson College of Textiles Award for Excellence in 1996 and 2007 and the College’s Monthly Merit Award in February 2016, this one leaves him speechless, he said.

“To be honest, I am still a little stunned. I’m so humbled by the award. Being recognized by the students, my sole reason for being in my job, is more meaningful than nearly any other recognition that I could receive.”

The Leader of the Year banquet will be held Monday, April 18 in the Convocation Center and is open to Wilson College of Textiles students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. Attendees will gather for a social reception at 6:30 p.m. and dinner begins at 7:15 p.m. Tickets can be bought in the Student and Career Services office or purchased online. They will be available until April 13 or until they are sold out. No tickets will be sold at the door and space is limited.