Betty Owen, who helped launch and grow the Emerging Issues Forum into an event that draws major speakers to NC State every year, died unexpectedly late last week while on vacation with her family.
Owen was not an alumna of NC State, but she helped make the university a hub for ideas and cutting-edge policy discussions as the longtime executive director of the Emerging Issues Forum. The forum has since expanded and become a part of the Institute for Emerging Issues.
“She was the sole staff person who put it on,” said former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., an NC State alumnus who has chaired the Emerging Issues Forum for 27 years. “She just did a fantastic job helping develop the program, securing the speakers, setting up everything, getting the invitations out, getting top legislators, business leaders and educators to come. She just did a terrific job.”
Before coming to NC State, Owen worked as a senior policy adviser to Hunt during his first two terms as governor. As a former public school teacher, Owen concentrated primarily on education issues while working with Hunt and played a key role in the establishment of the N.C. School of Science and Math and the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching.
Owen served as executive director of the Emerging Issues Forum from 1987 to 2001. And even though she studied at the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina, Hunt says she developed a strong affection for and appreciation of NC State, and welcomed the chance to connect the research being done at the university with the policy-makers and business people who came to the Emerging Issues Forum each year.
“She just had a real interest in all of that,” Hunt said. “She had this burning feeling that we have to help the people out there have a better life.”
Owen is survived by her husband, Larry G. Owen, of Pittsboro; sons, Geoffrey Lawrence Owen and Robert David Owen; daughters-in-law, Lauren Owen and Allison Owen; and four grandchildren.
Friends are invited to visit with the family on Saturday, Aug. 25, from 2 pm to 4 p.m. at Hall-Wynne Funeral Home, 396 West Street, Pittsboro, N.C.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to The Methodist Home for Children Foundation, 1041 Washington Street, Raleigh, N.C., 27605-1259.