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E. Norris Tolson

President and CEO
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An Edgecombe County native with a distinguished career of leadership in industry and public service, E. Norris Tolson took the helm as president and CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center on July 2, 2007.

Tolson had served on the Biotechnology Center's Board of Directors since 1997, and as a member of the Executive Committee since 2001.

Tolson has served the state as secretary of commerce and as secretary of transportation, charged by Gov. Jim Hunt with reorganizing both departments.

In 1999, Tolson served as chairman of the North Carolina Hurricane Floyd Relief Fund, established to help victims recover from that disaster.

In 2001, Gov. Mike Easley appointed Tolson secretary of revenue, where he remained until taking the leadership post at the Biotechnology Center in 2007.

He also served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 1994 until 1997, representing parts of Nash, Edgecombe, Pitt and Wilson counties.

In March 2009, Tolson was honored with the Watauga Medal, the highest non-academic award bestowed by North Carolina State University. Three months later Gov. Bev Perdue appointed him to the university’s Board of Trustees, where he was Vice Chairman and First Vice Chair of the executive committee until June 30, 2013. He also served as a member of the Audit, Finance and Planning committee and as Chair of the University Affairs committee. Tolson is also a former board member of the North Carolina New Schools and former ex officio member of the NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Alumni & Friends Society board.

Tolson received a CALS 2009-2010 Distinguished Alumnus award, in recognition of his “outstanding career achievements, which have brought honor and recognition to the College,” and for his “commitment to the land-grant principle of service to community, state and nation.”

He graduated from NCSU with a bachelor's degree in crop science and agribusiness in 1962. He also served in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps from 1963 to 1965.

Prior to his election to the General Assembly, Tolson held various domestic and international research, marketing and sales responsibilities with E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. From 1965 until his retirement in 1993 he served in the company's agricultural products and electronics divisions, and lived in Europe for several years.

Tolson and his wife, Betsy, live in Pinetops. They have three children and five grandchildren.

He is a member of the N.C. State Alumni Association Board of Directors, and CALS Alumni and Friends Society advisory boards. Tolson serves on boards for NCBIO, the Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience, the Academy for Leadership Excellence within the United Methodist Church, and as an active member of the NC AgBiotech Advisory Council.

See Norris Tolson on UNC-TV's  "North Carolina Now"


The following statement was issued August 27, 2013 by the Biotech Center. It can be attributed to Norris Tolson, President and CEO.

The Biotechnology Center’s leadership has reviewed programs and staffing as a result of the cut in our state appropriation from $17.2 million to $12.6 million. The 27 percent cut to our budget requires deep cuts and difficult decisions. As of Sept. 1, the Center is: