The man behind Luter residence hall

Highlighting the legacy of Joseph Luter, the namesake of the newly-renovated residence hall


The newly-renovated Luter residence hall is named after Joseph Williamson Luter III, a Wake Forest alum, University benefactor and entrepreneur.

Breanna Laws, Staff Writer

 “Whatever success I’ve had would not have been possible without my Wake Forest education,” Joseph Luter said. Luter is a Wake Forest University benefactor and businessman out of Smithfield, VA.

The Luter residence hall has undergone intense renovations over the past semester, and it is finally ready to begin housing students again. As the former Bostwick and Johnson residents make their move into their new home, it is important to highlight the man behind the hall’s name. 

This residence hall boasts the name of Joseph Williamson Luter III, a 1961 graduate from Wake Forest. Now 82 years old, Luter has left his legacy on his alma mater, and also holds great success in his own business endeavors.

Many may be familiar with the name Smithfield Food — the world’s largest hog producer and pork processor. Luter’s father founded this company in 1936, alongside Luter’s grandfather. The company is based out of the small town of Smithfield, VA, where Luter grew up. 

At its conception, the Smithfield Packing Company was a small meat business — selling small amounts of pork to businesses in the area. The company grew rapidly, and what started as a pork processing company turned into an empire, producing up to 3,500 hogs a day.

In his youth, Luter worked at his father’s company during the summer and over the winter holidays. He worked a variety of jobs, including working the kill floor, the cut floor, the pig pen and loading the trucks.

In an interview with Virginia Living, Luter details the work as “tough, hard work — dirty work.” While his was not the most glamorous of jobs, Luter also expressed the benefits of working alongside the people in the plant. He believes that it made him “appreciate the workers” because he “learned where they were coming from.”

In his early adulthood, Luter studied economics and business history at Wake Forest University. He graduated from the university in 1961, the same year that his father passed away.

After the death of his father, Luter decided to invest further in the Smithfield Packing Company. His father had owned about 42% of the Smithfield Packing Company, and Luter purchased enough to own a little over half of the company.

In 1966, Luter became the chairman of Smithfield Packing Company. He remained in his position until 1969. At that time, he sold the company to Liberty Equities Corporation, a conglomerate based in Washington, D.C. 

After stepping down as chairman, Luter remained in close affiliation with Wake Forest. He is considered an esteemed University supporter and he served on the Board of Trustees from 1997-2000.

In addition to being on the board, Luter has also held a large financial influence at Wake Forest. In 1987, Luter donated 1 million dollars to the University in support of a variety of projects on campus. 

He allocated the funds to two building projects on campus, as well as the intercollegiate athletics program. The men’s and women’s athletic programs received $400,000 of this donation. One of the building projects was the construction of the University Center, which had $500,000 designated towards it. The other was the construction of the Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum, which received a donation of $100,000. 

Today, Luter is honored with a residence hall bearing his name. The seal of the hall depicts the profile of a boar — a subtle nod to the Smithfield Packing Company. Luter Hall is now a coed dorm that houses both first-year and continuing students, and it will continue to honor the man it was named after for years to come.