Loyalty, integrity and hard work
have gone a long way for Lonnie Poole (’59) and his wife, Carol, active and long-time supporters of NC State University.
Poole, who grew up on a farm between Garner and Clayton, NC, was the first in his family to attend college, and funded his education by selling produce at several area locations. The money he earned during his youth not only afforded him the opportunity to attend NC State, where he received a B.S. in Civil Engineering, but allowed Poole a chance to give back to his family through gifts of previously unexperienced luxuries, including the family’s first television and piano.
After marrying the former Carol Lynn Johnson in 1960 and serving as a pilot in the U.S. Army for four years, Poole found immediate success in the business world, excelling as both a sales manager and an engineer with several firms.
In 1970, Poole’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to found Waste Industries, Inc., a non-hazardous solid waste services company with ambitions of serving the solid waste needs of customers throughout Eastern North Carolina. Despite rough economic times, Poole’s company established a track record of excellence and performance, and began to flourish and expand.
By the mid 1980s, Waste Industries — whose first hire was fellow NC State alum and current company chairman Jim Perry (’66) — had reached revenues of $10 million, and surpassed $100 million by the end of the next decade, becoming a publicly traded company in the process. In 2007, Waste Industries was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of America’s 200 Best Small Companies.
After returning to its private-company roots in 2008, Waste Industries now serves more than 700,000 customers across five states. Poole remains a director on the company’s board, while his eldest son, Ven (’85), serves as CEO.
Throughout the years, NC State has been blessed by the Poole family’s generosity in support of the university’s mission to serve both locally and in a global capacity. Collectively, Poole, the Lonnie and Carol Poole Family Foundation, the Waste Industries Foundation and Waste Industries, USA have given $40 million dollars to NC State.
“If there hadn’t been an NC State at a very affordable rate, I would not have gotten a college education,” Poole said, “and I would not have been able to succeed in the business world as I have.”
“Mr. Poole is a powerful ally that few other universities have comparable ties to,” said Ryan Powell, outreach coordinator for waste reduction and recycling at NC State. “He has a genuine interest in managing game day waste in a way that reflects positively on the university.
“While other large complexes across the nation have generally lagged behind in efforts to make large venues more environmentally friendly through their recycling efforts, Waste Industries has led the way,” he said. “Mr. Poole is one of the proudest NC State alumni I’ve met, and we’ve been fortunate to have such a great relationship with him.”
However, the Poole’s collective efforts to give back to NC State don’t begin and end on the gridiron. Poole has served as director of the NC State University Foundation and the Endowment Board, as well as several college-based foundations.
In 2008, Poole received the university’s highest nonacademic honor, the Watauga Medal, in appreciation for his dedication and devotion to the advancement of the university. Last year, Poole received the Jerry and Elizabeth Godwin Red Torch Award, given in recognition of his contributions of counsel, expertise and resources in furthering the mission of the NC State University Foundation.
Along with his wife, Carol, Poole provided a naming gift for the Lonnie Poole Golf Course, which opened in Summer 2009 to rave reviews. The Arnold Palmer designed course not only serves as the home to NC State’s men’s and women’s golf teams, but supports critical academic programs, including the Professional Golf Management (PGM) and turfgrass programs.
“North Carolina State University has been good to our family and to so many North Carolina families,” said Poole, who taught himself to play golf while he pursued his undergraduate degree. “Carol Lynn and I feel very fortunate to be in a position to make a gift that will support and enhance the academic and athletic programs related to the golf course.”
The Poole family’s ties to the university continue to grow: Lonnie and Carol’s younger son, Scott, studied English at NC State, while Ven’s eldest daughter, Chelsea, just began her freshman year on campus, as a creative writing student in the university’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.