Gorga and Joines Give the Gift of Exceptional Student Experiences Through Their New Endowment
By Kamilah Heslop
When graduates of the Wilson College of Textiles are asked who influenced them the most during their time on campus, two names are stated countless times: professors Jeff Joines and Russell Gorga.
It’s clear that the connection these professors have with their students continues long after their courses end. Words like “hero,” “cherished mentor” and “indispensable” echo throughout interviews, casual conversations and social media posts.
One graduate, Ciara Oden ’16, reiterated that sentiment when she was interviewed last year.
“My fondest college memory is working on my Senior Design project with Dr. Gorga. It was an amazing hands-on experience and a glimpse into the real world,” she gushed. “I also love how passionate Dr. J is. He supported me throughout my entire time as a student.”
Not only are Gorga and Joines both cherished faculty members at the college, but they also specifically call the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (TECS) home. Joines provides visionary leadership as the head of the department, and Gorga recently completed a five-year term as the director of the TECS undergraduate programs.
The two professors share the same personal mission of instilling knowledge into students in the most engaging way possible. Legions of graduates credit Joines and Gorga for their love of textiles, including military veteran Justin Rigdon ’17, Matthew Iezzi ’18, ’19 and Devon Person ’10.
“Dr. Joines and Dr. Gorga are extremely wise, and they pushed me to explore what was possible within the textile field,” Iezzi, who serves on the college’s Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council, says. “Seeing their dedication to teaching made my time in the Wilson College of Textiles feel personalized for me and so much more meaningful.”
Paying forward critical student support
The passion that Joines and Gorga have for providing a one-of-a-kind educational experience for their students led them to establish the Gorga and Joines TECS Student Enrichment Endowment on Nov. 7, 2021. The professors worked with the Wilson College’s philanthropic arm, the North Carolina Textile Foundation, to make this possible.
Their new fund will be used to support experiential learning opportunities for students pursuing an undergraduate TECS degree. Students can apply to use the endowment’s funding to pay for research materials and equipment; their participation in a study abroad program; housing during an out-of-state or global internship; attendance fees for academic conferences, technical shows, and seminars; and so much more.
“Jeff and I really care about our students and their development as young professionals. This goes beyond learning in the classroom and includes remarkable enrichment experiences,” Gorga explains.
We never want students to feel limited because of their financial resources. We hope that our endowment will provide even more students with the opportunity to think and do while also inspiring other faculty and staff to give back to the Wilson College of Textiles.
— Professor Russell Gorga
Next summer, the professors plan to provide funding for several students to attend ITMA: the world’s largest international textile and garment technology exhibition. This unique trade show takes place in Milan, Italy. In addition to attending the trade show through support from the Gorga and Joines TECS Student Enrichment Endowment, students will be personally introduced to global textile leaders by the well-connected professors.
“I’ve seen firsthand how experiences like attending technical trade shows, conducting undergraduate research and studying abroad directly impact our students’ learning,” Joines shares. “In addition to being able to establish a legacy for Russell and myself, we created this endowment to help students continue to have these types of life-changing experiences.”
Honored for finding their calling
Joines’ and Gorga’s curricula vitae (CVs) are decorated with awards recognizing their commitment to educating the next generation of textile leaders, engineers, entrepreneurs and researchers.
Joines’ talents earned him the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016, marking the first time a Wilson College of Textiles faculty member was recognized with this prestigious honor. Before that, he received NC State’s Alumni Association Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award in 2012 and the Gertrude Cox Teaching Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching and Learning in 2009. In 2006, Joines was honored twice: with NC State’s Alumni Association’s Outstanding Teaching Award and an induction into the Academy of Outstanding Teachers.
The interest Gorga has in creating a learning-focused environment led him to receive NC State’s Outstanding Teacher Award twice, first in 2007 and then again in 2016. His other honors include the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Teaching Award in 2016, the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award in 2017, and an induction into the Academy of Outstanding Teachers in 2007. Gorga’s passion for advising students earned him additional honors. In 2019, he received NC State’s Faculty Advisor Award and the National Academic Advising Association’s Certificate of Merit for Faculty Advising. In 2020, he received the Faculty Advising Award for Region Three from the National Academic Advising Association.
“Our Wilson College of Textiles faculty members uniquely engage with our students, and Drs. Joines and Gorga are two wonderful examples of this,” Michael Ward, executive director of the North Carolina Textile Foundation, says.
“Their devotion to our students will only increase through their creation of the Gorga and Joines TECS Student Enrichment Endowment. I look forward to continuing to see how transformational this funding will be for our students and their futures.”
Help students have once-in-a-lifetime experiences