It’s not surprising that anyone who’s been associated with NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles over the last three decades knows Kent Hester, director of Student and Career Services. He is ubiquitous. From organizing career fairs (nearly 30 during his tenure) and service projects to managing scholarship weekends. He’s led countless interview workshops, welcomed thousands of prospective students and their families to campus, visited hundreds of high schools in North Carolina and beyond, and taken students on trips to visit companies and cheer on the Pack at Clemson. More importantly, for nearly 30 years he’s been available to Wilson College of Textiles students, student groups and alumni providing guidance, leadership and career support.

But what might be surprising – given the sheer number of people he’s interacted with during that time –  is the fact that he remembers most of those students, alums and industry partners. He knows what high school they went to, what scholarships they received, what internships they completed, which clubs they were members of and what companies they are working at today. He attends their weddings (eight to 10 a year) and connects with them at alumni events like the Textile Alumni Tailgate, which he founded in 1991.

As Hester readies to retire at the end of September, his legacy surely will be those connections and his commitment to making the Wilson College of Textiles a home for so many.

“It’s not an event I’ve organized that I’m most proud of. It’s the relationships that I have built with companies, but, more importantly, with students. That was the most important take away,” he said. “I was able to build those because I was accessible and I was here. It was those conversations and shared experiences outside of the classroom that built friendships. I hope that I have been a reliable go-to for students, for alumni and that’s what most people remember.”

While the relationships matter more to him than the events he’s executed, many of those events remain points of pride for Hester. Joyful memories include the 2015 career fair when company participation topped 74 after years of hovering between 30 to 40. He also looks back fondly on being a part of the group that helped launch the Centennial Scholarship program, which has brought so many to the College who would go on to become industry leaders.

Kent’s commitment to the Wilson College of Textiles and NC State started when he was a student in what was then the Textile Management program. While a student, he was a member of both the Kappa Tau Beta leadership fraternity and Phi Psi professional textile fraternity as well as the Tompkins Textile Student Council and the American Association of Textile Technology. As a college senior, Kent served as president of the NC State senior class, and then later as a high school recruiter for the Wilson College of Textiles, a role he had a unique appreciation for given that it was a Textiles’ recruiter’s third trip to his Gaston County high school that convinced him to change his intended major from civil engineering to Textile Management.

He briefly worked as a human resources management trainee for Burlington Industries following graduation. But it wasn’t long before he returned to the College as the assistant director of Student Services and director of the newly formed 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 working at a university was never on his radar, a career built around helping people was.

“Was I made for this job? Maybe. Or maybe the job helped make me into who I am. I was going into human resources. So that desire to work with people was already there,” he said. “I truly care about students’ well being as much as their academic and professional success. I believe every person has value whether they’re carrying a  2.0 or a 4.0.”

So what’s next for this soon-to-be retiree who has rarely left work before 8 p.m. when classes are in session and who has only taken a day and half of sick time in almost 30 years? To begin, he’s headed home to Gaston County to become “one of the oldest boomerang kids” and spend time with his close-knit family.

“To start with I am going to do absolutely nothing. Having nights and weekends will be a change,” he said. “It’s not too late for a fall garden. There are several state and national parks I have always wanted to go to. There are some fish I haven’t caught yet.”

And folks may just spot him at NC State home football games since he’ll remain a season ticket holder. His pride in being a member of the Pack is something that will never waver. Nor will his hope for the community he leaves behind.

“My wish for the students of the college is to have the same good experience that I had with success beyond college, whatever that means for them,” he said. “And I thank everyone for being a part of my career. Everyone I interacted with, everyone who helped me along the way, they all helped to shape this time.”

NOTE: Industry partners and alumni who would normally reach out Kent with questions should contact Kristy Ruiz, director of the Student Life Center at kristy_ruiz@ncsu.edu.

53 Comments

    Kent,
    Congratulations on your retirement. Seems like yesterday, going out on the road with you and seeing high schools across our great state (and others) spreading the word about the College of Textiles/NCSU. You certainly have helped shape the school and the lives of students – well done. I wish you the best in this next chapter. Charles Hollar (89)

    Kent Hester….literally a name that is synonymous with the College of Textiles. I think we met in Summer of 1989 at the “Textile Camp”…you will be missed.

    I feel sorry for the next person because it will be next to IMPOSSIBLE to fill your shoes.

    Good luck in the next phase of your life!!!!

    Thank you Ken for everything you did for me and the class of ’97 and ’99 graduates and being our Phi Psi sponsor. Best wishes to you!

    Kent, from former recruiter to another, thanks for your many years of exceptional service to the students at the College of Textiles, and best wishes for a long, fruitful and well-deserved retirement!
    Robin Butler, TXT ’74

    Nora Beamon (1998): Kent, I hope retirement is everything you hope it to be! And if you ever get bored (as if)… just remember you have a friend in Charlotte! 🙂

    Kent, From all of us who have come through the College of Textiles… Thank you for your support, dedication and friendship! Happy Retirement… Brad Faucette, TE Class of ’98

    Wow Kent!!! You have done a great job! I will NEVER forget how you took me and made my life in America bare able.

    Kent! You always took the time to sit down and talk, while providing encouragement and valuable information for the next steps in life. You were the same everytime I spoke with you no matter what. There is only one Kent Hester! Catch many fish!
    Phi Psi!

    Kent,
    Cheers for a wonderful retirement! Thanks for everything you did for the students at CoT

    Kent,
    Congratulations on an exceptional career! I will always appreciate all that you did to help me while I was a COT recruiter and getting started in the textile industry. You are one in a million and will always be remembered for providing support and a listening ear.
    Enjoy retirement!

    Kent, thanks for all your years of service to the College & those in it! I hope that retirement is a wonderful new adventure and a welcome change of pace!

    Hailey Queen
    Centennial Scholar; TE 2004

    Kent, Congratulations on your retirement. You are truly a remarkable person. You have made recruiting at the College of Textiles an enjoyable and productive experience. Your dedication to the students really shows in the way you always light up when you talk about them as individuals. I hate to see you go but I am glad you will be able to enjoy retirement.

    Kent, Congratulations buddy! Please enjoy your “well deserved” time off. I hope nothing but the best for you in the next stages of your life.

    Kent –
    Congratulations on a great career at the CoT. You’ve clearly impacted many lives, and that’s something to be quite proud of.
    Best wishes on the next chapter in your life.
    Rob Bender
    Textile Engineering (Class of ‘89.5)

    Kent, Thank you for your dedicated service to the students, the alumni, the College, and the Industry. It was a pleasure and honor working with you.
    Enjoy the next phase of your life.
    Blessings!

    Kent, Congratulations on your upcoming retirement! You are and always will be a very special person. I am so glad our paths crossed on our career journeys! I was always in awe of your commitment to the students at the College of Textiles. Your passion for the students was unmatched by anyone at any University. I wish you the very best, my friend, and hope our paths may cross again!

    Best wishes to you, Kent! You were such an important part of each Textiles’ students’ tenure…it will truly be so hard to replace someone like you! Enjoy retirement!

    Congratulations Kent on such a fruitful career and for making so many of us feel old now. Good grief, you didn’t seem more than a couple months older than us back then. Enjoy the free nights and weekends; you’ve earned them!

    I met Kent during my Master Program years (1990-91). He was in the beginning of his career, and already showed great interest in the development of each student’s career. It makes me very glad to see how longlasting and productive his commitment has been.
    Congratulations, Kent! Greetings from São Paulo, Brazil

    Kent was a true treasure for the Textile School. He tirelessly promoted NCSU, the Textile School and its’ student. He will be missed because he was a “good person”. Best wishes on the next phase of you life. Enjoy retirement.

    Kentley B – your’s was the only number I ever remembered at NCSU COT post graduation. You will be missed and not just for our lunches…. wishing you all the very best in the next chapter. GO PACK!!!

    Kent you are an amazing man and your smiling face will be missed. Enjoy your retirement. You have definitely earned it

    Kent- Congratulations on your retirement! Thank you for making everyone feel important. I wish you the best of health in your next chapter.

    Jo Jarrett
    Class of 1995,TE

    Kent,
    Congratulations. I guess it has been 30 years. You certainly hold up well. Thanks for making me and other alumni feel welcome when we came back to visit. You have certainly made your mark. Well Done! Stay in touch.

    Kent! Thank you for everything you did for me and so many others. Wishing you the best in your next chapter!

    Martin Rossato, TE 2003

    Kent,
    You were a great help to me during my time at State, and I was greatly blessed by your willingness to help me as an alumni. I agree it is amazing that you remember so much about so many people; you give us all a great example of what it means to invest in the lives of others with love and compassion. Thank you for your dedication and enjoy your retirement! Best wishes!
    Mary Lou (Ramsey) Haney
    TE 2003

    You are too young to retire! You will be missed. Big shoes to fill for your replacement! You did an awesome job over the years but more importantly you made connections with every single students, that is a gift, something you can take away and be proud of. Good luck in your next chapter. I am sure it will be amazing too.

    Kent,
    It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you over the past 30 years. You have been a tremendous asset to me personally and I will miss you. It is great to hear about your initial plans and I hope they will bring you the satisfaction you deserve.
    Godspeed!

    Kent, You always made parents feel like part of the NCSU Textile Family. Thank you so much for your service and help. Enjoy your retirement every day!

    When I was a student at the COT, it was so comforting to know Kent’s office was always open to me. His guidance helped me succeed at COT in so many ways, and I am grateful. What a wonderful, giving person. Thank you so much for your service, Kent!!!
    Sarah Grace Smith – Textile Technology, Class of 2013

    what a great legacy you are leaving….this Hester is proud to call you CUZ and so proud that you have remained so grounded in the virtues that you were taught and possess…Godspeed in this next chapter.

    Kent,
    Thanks for your commitment and lasting results…you have made an impact on so many lives. It all happened so quickly. Seems like just a few years ago we were students and recruiters.

    Thank you for being you, Kent! It was a pleasure to get to know you while I was on campus and an honor to be able to continue to come back to the college at your invitation for scholarship interviews and to hire the latest and greatest talent from the CoT. Enjoy your well-deserved downtime!

    Kent,
    I want to publically thank you for all of your years of service. You were there for me as a student and now as a staff member. I have seen you here at all hours of the day and night and know you did so many things for the students and College we’ll never know. I truly hope you get a chance to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
    Many blessings,
    Shawn

    Kent,
    Thank you for always being a resource for me at the CoT, both through my time as a student and after graduation. Your dedication is second to none and I still find myself using your advice to this day. Many wishes for a happy retirement!
    Thank you again,
    Rebecca Klossner

    Wow! Kent, thank you for all you have done for the College of Textiles and students over the last 30 years! Thank you especially for your time and counsel during my college years. You are what I consider to be a staple to my college experience and I’m sure to most members of the COT pack. I would not be where I am today without some of your office’s guidance and assistance! Thank you for all you’ve done! Wishing you all the best for this next chapter in your life, you deserve some rest and hard-earned relaxation!
    – Cassia Lewis (FTM 2013)

    Kent,
    Congratulations to the best of the best! I hope you enjoy every moment of retirement–it has been well earned. Yours will be big shoes to fill! I treasure each memory with you, and pray every happiness for you. Don’t lose our number! Much love,
    JJ

    Kent, I don’t know what they are going to do without you. Thank you for your service. Proud to be one of your students and a Phi Psi brother. I’m sure I speak for the rest of the class of ’03 and Congratulatons on your well earned retirement! GO PACK!

    Congrats Kent! Well done, and well deserved! You will be missed, but we are grateful for having you these last 30 years! Thank you for all you have done for NCSU and the CoT!

    I can’t envision COT without you! When I think back to all my favorite times in college, you are always part of the memory! You are genuine, admired, dedicated, fun, kind and every other superlative in the dictionary! Enjoy retirement and know that your legacy is cemented in the COT with all the student’s lives you touched.

    Kent –

    Many thanks for all you did for me personally, for the College, for NC State – but most importantly, thank you for all you’ve done for the State of North Carolina!

    Onward! And Go Pack!

    Johnny

    Kent, I pray you will enjoy life as a retiree. I do greatly. “30 years” struck me as you are too young for that many years of employment. Smile! Walt Mossberg said, “I see retirement as just another of these reinventions, another chance to do new things and be a new version of myself.” God bless you and yours. Brenda Allen (formerly in COT Student Services)

    Kent, I too am a proud Textile graduate before your time. I want to say thank you for all you did for my son, Travis Cartwright, who is also a proud NC State Textile graduate. He learn a great deal from you beyond what he learned in the classroom that has contributed to his success. Thanks so much.
    Don
    Class of 1972

    A well deserved congratulations Kent! You will always be known for being a go-to professional and friend to so many. I wish you continued success in the next chapter of life!

    Kent,
    You made such a huge impact on many people who came through the college. Your positive attitude, integrity, and overall caring for people was top notch. Thank you for your guidance and counsel. Best wishes to you as you enter into your next phase in life.
    Tim

    Kent,
    You are such a class act. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to work with you on a couple of occasions. Your hard work and commitment serves as a model for others to follow. Congratulations on your retirement and enjoy!!!

    Congratulations on your retirement, Kent. You certainly leave a bright legacy at the College of Textiles. You’ve been a wonderful role model for many and you deserve all of the happiness, relaxation, and enjoyment that retirement has to offer!

    Congratulation on your retirement! I can’t thank you enough for the impact you have had on my college and professional careers. You gave me my first job out of college (Recruiter for COT ’97-99) and then encouraged me to get my Maters Degree (’99-’01). From that and all I learned from you (especially public speaking and event planning & management) I’ve become the successful professional I am today! I hope that I can be the same caliber of role model to others that you have been to me! Thank you again for all you’ve done!

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