Born in Tyler, Texas in 1985 to Richard Watkins Jr. and Pamela Watkins, Richard Lee Watkins III (Richard) is the eldest of his parents’ two children. His father was a teacher and baseball coach and his mother, a social worker. His siblings, younger sister, Kandace and older half-brother, Eric served as both role models and inspiration for young Richard.
When his father began teaching and coaching baseball at North Carolina A&T State University, seven-year-old Richard moved with the rest of his family to Greensboro, North Carolina. Richard went on to attend Grimsley Senior High School. While at Grimsley Senior High School (GHS), Richard received a varsity letter in both track and football, with the latter earning him the GHS Football Award. Richard graduated from Grimsley Senior High School in 2003.
Richard then received a full academic scholarship to attend Fayetteville State University as a Chancellor’s Scholar. Though on a full academic ride, Richard played varsity football for The Fayetteville State Broncos for the entire duration of his collegiate career. While at Fayetteville State University, Richard served as: 1) President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee; 2) Vice-president of the Fayetteville State University Chapter of Psi Chi; 3) Treasurer of the Fayetteville State Psychology Club; and 4) member of Fayetteville State University Chapter of Beta Kappa Chi. In 2007 Richard graduated with honors, receiving a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology.
Richard went on to earn his PhD from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine in Microbiology and Immunology with a specialty in Virology. Richard's research focused on the factors that influence disease progression to AIDS in HIV infected patients. In recognition of his research efforts, Richard was inducted into the renowned scientific society Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society. Richard went on the serve as president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Chapter of Sigma Xi as well as board member on the society’s national board of directors, where he, to currently represents the interests of the south eastern region’s scientific enterprise.
Now the founder of the 501c3 public non-profit focused on the enhancement of North Carolina’s scientific enterprise and economy, Richard serves as the CEO of The Science Policy Action Network, Inc. (SPAN), one of North Carolina’s most influential state-focused general scientific organizations. In addition to running SPAN, Richard also serves as a program coordinator for one of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s most prestigious scholarship programs, The Chancellor’s Science Scholars Program.
With a deep passion for service, Richard has extensive experience building bridges between the scientific enterprise, industry, government, and the citizens of North Carolina. Richard believes that science provides the means to a better life. Moreover, science and innovation are necessary for both job growth and economic growth.
Richard lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife, Charity Watkins, and one-year-old daughter, Margeaux.
– A society that embraces science is a society that thrives, and you cannot spell scieNCe without NC.