Michael P. Voiland, who retired as North Carolina Sea Grant executive director in December 2012, received a top award from the National Sea Grant Extension Assembly.

Voiland’s 40-plus years of service to the Sea Grant network — from an early focus on Lake Ontario in New York to his administrative roles — were cited for the William Q. Wick Award for Visionary Career Leadership through Administration. The award honors a network leader who served Oregon Sea Grant in multiple roles.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Mike,” James Falk of Delaware Sea Grant notes on behalf of the extension assembly. “Through his examples and leadership I learned many valuable lessons on how to be a better extension professional.”

Susan White, current North Carolina Sea Grant executive director, agrees. “Mike’s ability to listen first, then respond to varied audiences, served our program well, along with regional and national efforts.”

Voiland holds his award.

Voiland receives a tio award from the Nationak Sea Grant Extension Assembly. Photo by Jurij Homziak.

Voiland had a career with New York Sea Grant and Cornell University prior to joining North Carolina Sea Grant in 2006. In 2009, he also became director of the Water Resources Research Institute of the University of North Carolina system. Along with Sea Grant, WRRI is headquartered at North Carolina State University.

Jim Murray, former North Carolina Sea Grant extension director and retired deputy director of the National Sea Grant College Program, offered a letter supporting Voiland’s nomination.

“I can say with certitude that Mike made significant improvements to an already good Sea Grant program,” Murray writes, describing Voiland’s tenure in North Carolina.

They met when both were graduate students at State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry. Their advisor had received some of the initial Sea Grant funding in New York. The two continued as colleagues within the Sea Grant network.

Murray cites Voiland’s skills, honed through extension roles, as critical in leadership of the N.C. Waterfront Access Study Committee. That large panel developed recommendations to the N.C. General Assembly, resulting in a $20-million waterfront fund, updates to policies and fees, and improved coordination among state agencies.

“Despite a track record of leadership and success throughout his career, in his heart, Mike remains an extension field agent. I think that is as good of testimonial as I can provide for the Wick Award,” adds Murray, a past recipient.

Voiland agrees, noting that the honor is especially humbling as he knew Wick and worked with many of the recipients directly or through the network. “To receive this award reinforces in a special way my hope that I was able to do some good in my chosen field over the years,” he says.

A native of New York, Voiland also was a recipient of the Award of Excellence in 2012 from the NC State Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development. Since retirement, he has expanded his musical schedule, playing keyboards in a trio that is popular in the Triangle and beyond.

This article was published in the Holiday 2013 issue of Coastwatch.

For contact information and reprint requests, visit