Fabulous 50: First Woman Editor of Agri-Life

Sarah Sheffield, 1969, editor of Agri-Life, a student publication of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Sarah Sheffield, 1969, editor of Agri-Life, a student publication of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Fifty years ago during the 1968-1969 academic year, Sarah Sheffield became the first woman editor of Agri-Life, at that time the primary student publication of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).  During the late 1960s, 90 percent of CALS students were men, and a 15 Feb. 1969 university press release declared "another male bastion has fallen at North Carolina State University" when Sheffield took over the publication.  (University press releases can be found in the University Archives, Office of Public Affairs Records.)

Originally from Wallace, NC, Sheffield was a student at NC State from 1966 to 1977.  She enrolled in the Department of Zoology and majored in wildlife biology.  The press release quoted her as saying "although I like animals, I don't want to be a veterinarian.  The job is too confining, and I want to spend a lot of time out-of-doors . . . . I will not be too particular as long as I can be out-of-doors and associated with things out-of-doors.  I just want to put into action my feeling for animals and to help to conserve them for the future."

Cover of Agri-Life, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1969), edited by Sarah Sheffield
Sarah Sheffield edited this issue of Agri-Life (Vol. 7, No. 2, 1969), devoted to conservation.

Before coming to NC State, Sheffield had edited her high school yearbook.  As editor of NC State's Agri-Life, she was responsible for two issues per year.  Another university press release issued on 22 Feb. 1969 indicated that she was awarded a $500 scholarship by the Outdoor Writers Association, and a 15 Dec. 1969 press release said she was the first woman to receive a scholarship from that organization.

Sheffield was very active at NC State and belonged to several student organizations:  Thirty & Three, the Leopold Wildlife Club, the Organization for the Environmental Quality, Student Government, and the Consolidated University Student Council.  She also sang on the choir and was a member of the Mu Beta Psi music fraternity.  The outdoors was where she wanted to spend her time, however, and one of the press releases stated "weekends usually find the attractive young lady in such unlikely places as the water fowl refuge at Lake Mattamuskeet or a trout hatchery in Pisgah National Forest."

Sheffield received her BS in zoology in 1970, and she stayed around NC State to earn a MS in wildlife biology in 1977 (her thesis was titled Dump Nesting in a Wood Duck Population).  Along the way she married classmate Rhodes Robinson (BS 1970, BS 1974, MS 1977).  Together in 1986 they founded Environmental Services, Inc., "a leading full-service environmental consulting firm" headquartered in Jacksonville, FL, and Sarah Sheffield Robinson is currently the president.

Agri-Life, Vol. 6, No. 2 (1969), masthead
Agri-Life, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1969), masthead

Special Collections holds the above quoted press releases in the Office of Public Affairs Records (UA 014.001), Boxes 98 and 100.  We hold issues of Agri-Life in the Agri-Life Council Records (UA 021.418), Boxes 3-4.  To request to look at these materials in NC State's D.H. Hill Jr. Library, please contact Special Collections through our online form.  Sarah Sheffield also got her name in the Technician student newspaper, Agromeck yearbook, and Pinetum natural resources student publication, which have been digitized and appear on our website.