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Planting a Seed for Future Generations

Scott and Rebecca Rothney in front of Japanese maple tree
Scott and Rebecca Rothney at JC Raulston Arboretum.

Scott and Rebecca Rothney didn’t grow up rooting for the Wolfpack or wearing red on Fridays. But in the more than 40 years that they’ve lived in Raleigh, the couple has seen firsthand how NC State benefits the surrounding area.

“State has always been an enormously rich source of enhancement for the community,” Rebecca said.

It was this dedication to community that led the Rothneys to love the Wolfpack and inspired them to make a planned gift to the university. Their bequest will support outreach efforts through JC Raulston Arboretum, NC State’s nationally acclaimed garden.

Over the last 20 years, the Rothneys have attended dance, music and drama events on campus. Their favorite performances range from kora music to the Mummenschanz theater troupe.

A rose at the Arboretum
Photo by Scott Rothney.

Rebecca has also worked closely with more than a dozen NC State students in developing and maintaining the global nonprofit organization she founded in 2009. Named Pack for a Purpose, the nonprofit encourages travelers to pack needed supplies in their suitcases to donate to the communities they visit. The organization’s name has unintentionally grown to have a bit of a double meaning, as most Pack for a Purpose interns are NC State students.

“All the interns from NC State have really propelled the nonprofit forward in exciting and innovative ways,” Rebecca said.

In the past nine years, Pack for a Purpose travelers have donated more than 220,000 pounds of needed supplies to community projects around the world. For Rebecca, philanthropy and voluntarism have been guiding principles throughout her entire life. In addition to running Pack for a Purpose full time as a volunteer, she has been a docent at the North Carolina Museum of Art for 29 years and served on a variety of boards, including that of the Sierra Club.

“From the time I was a child, it was impressed upon me that when you are part of a community, you have the joy and obligation to contribute to that community in whatever way you’re able to,” Rebecca said. “That was just always a part of my understanding of how the world worked.”

So when the Rothneys came into an inheritance on Scott’s side of the family, the couple knew they wanted to make a gift to the university that has enriched their lives in so many ways.

“Personally, it’s a way of thanking NC State for the incredibly gifted interns that have assisted me in my nonprofit,” Rebecca said.

The Rothneys were inducted into the R. Stanhope Pullen Society in 2017 when they established their bequest benefiting the arboretum.

In a way, JC Raulston Arboretum embodies everything the Rothneys love about the university — a perfect combination of science and art. The 10-and-a-half-acre garden serves as a living laboratory for students and faculty in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The arboretum is also open to the public year-round, serving as a beautiful sanctuary that the Rothneys often visit on weekends.

“Scott’s an incredible photographer, and we often go [to the Arboretum] because it provides him with amazing material for his Instagram account,” Rebecca said. “It provides us with just so much joy.”

Both former teachers, the Rothneys hope their gift will provide educational programming for children to teach them the importance of maintaining a healthy planet.

Whether learning takes place in the form of a fifth-grade field trip to the arboretum or through university students developing new hybrids, the Rothneys believe education is the key to the future.

“I think that North Carolina State University is incredibly dedicated — in the arts and the sciences — to graduating students who will also be giving back and doing extraordinary things in the community,” Rebecca said. “You just have to look at the alumni, from astronauts to fashion designers, to see that this is an accurate statement.”