Tony Caravano wrote in his journal when he was a senior in high school one simple sentence that would predict his involvement in student government in college. “I’d like to be the student body president at North Carolina State University,” read a page from his journal.
But Caravano revealed in an interview with NCSU Libraries’ Student Leadership Initiative, a project chronicling campus leaders and their stories from their time at the university, that when he got to NC State, he thought that role might take him away from making actual change for the student body.
So he told himself he wouldn’t run for student body president. “I wanted to impact an individual’s life rather than doing this big thing,” he said.
It didn’t take him long, though, to look for a chance to serve as student body president. In fact, Caravano was elected to the position twice and served as president from 2003-2005.
He talked about what his involvement meant to him, as well as his accomplishments as president in the six interviews featured in the archive. He was the first graduate student to ever serve as student body president, and during his time, he established a traditions committee and Red Terror Transit.
But perhaps his greatest accomplishment was finding a different way to protest tuition increases. “[T]here’s an interesting role as a student body president,” he said. “You understand or come to understand the the innards of this place, the guts of how it operates and works, so I understood the need for additional revenue coming into the campus, but at the time in North Carolina the middle class was just being squeezed.”
So Caravano, who now serves on the board of directors for the Alumni Association, was instrumental in what he calls “the Personal Stories Project,” where he brought real people who would be affected by such policy changes to meetings and let them tell their stories.
“We didn’t do the protests that some of our predecessors had done and the rallies,” he said. “Those things hadn’t yielded different results, so we brought them to actual meetings to talk to the people who were going to make the decisions.”
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NC State’s Justin LeBlanc, an assistant professor at the College of Design, was one of two faculty advisors at the popular student-run Art2Wear fashion show in April, taking care of logistics that included coming up with a tent design and making sure the runway was placed correctly.
A picture from Justin LeBlanc’s “Friends and Family” photo gallery on the Project Runway website.
But LeBlanc is about to hit another runway — and in this one, he’ll appear on a national stage. LeBlanc is one of 16 contestants chosen to appear on this season’s Project Runway, the Lifetime reality show that pits up-and-coming fashion designers against one another in a series of challenges. Contestants are eliminated as the show progresses, and the winner gets prizes valued at $500,000 and a showing at New York’s Fashion Week in Lincoln Center.
For now, LeBlanc’s family and friends have had no contact with him for weeks and even his mother isn’t sure when he will return to Raleigh. “I’m a lawyer and I’m used to being able to control everything around me, but I can’t control this,” Kathy Edwards, LeBlanc’s mother says. LeBlanc’s father, Gerald LeBlanc, is head of the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at NC State.
“They keep it very hush-hush,” says Katherine Diuguid, an assistant professor at the College of Design who was the other faculty co-adviser for Art2Wear. “No one has heard from him, and I believe they confiscate ipads, iphones — you cannot have contact with anyone other than Project Runway.”
LeBlanc, who is deaf, grew up in Raleigh and received two degrees from NC State: one in architecture in 2008 and another in art and design in 2009. On his website he writes that growing up deaf has helped him develop artistically. “Throughout my life, I’ve lived in an altered state of mind,” he writes. “I was born deaf and have relied throughout my life on artificial means to provide some semblance of sound. The lack of natural hearing heightened my other senses resulting in a perception of the world that differs from that of a hearing person.’’
Diuguid says she believes that LeBlanc, a former Caldwell Fellow at NC State, has an excellent shot at winning the top prize. His architecture background gave him a strong sense of geometry, form and perspective. And he is incredibly creative with fabric, she says. “Texture is very important to Justin,” she says. “Anytime you see him, he’s got something in his hands and he’s working on it. One day he had a piece of wool, and he had rubber-banded pennies all around it. Then he boiled it so it shrank down and created this amazing coral-reef like texture.”
LeBlanc on his way to his first day of teaching at NC State.
That sort of creativity will likely serve him well in the Project Runway forum, where contestants face different design challenges each week. “It could be Heidi Klum on the red carpet — or going to a hardware store making a dress out of washers.’’ Diuguid says.
Edwards says she and her husband recently watched an episode of the show from a previous season in which the contestants were awakened at 4 a.m., sent to a workroom and told to change clothes. They were then asked to design a garment from whatever they had been wearing to sleep in.
“I looked at my husband and said, ‘I can’t believe we let him do this,’’’ Edwards says, “and my husband said, ‘I don’t think it was our choice.’’’
Edwards will have to wait to see how far her son makes it on the show, which may be in the process of taping now. In the meantime, she’d like fans to go on the Project Runway website and “like” the Facebook icon next to LeBlanc’s picture.
And LeBlanc gave a shout-out to NC State on the question-and-answer section of the Project Runway site when he was asked about his occupation, including “Go Wolfpack!” in his answer.
–Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Book jacket for The Secrets of Sterling Shearin.
The first question one asks anybody named Will Ferrell is: Do you have any connection with your more familiar namesake? Writer and NC State alum Will Ferrell, who released his first book in February this year, says he actually does. He and comedian Will Ferrell are first cousins.
“I kid the actor Will Ferrell’s dad that his son has ruined my brand,” says Ferrell.
Ferrell says his first book The Secrets of Sterling Shearin: The Noblest Cause, fills a void in the historical depiction of North Carolina and its role and contribution to the establishment of the Constitution. The book is a fictional take on North Carolina’s history and people during the 1790s and follows the perspective of a young man named Sterling Shearin.
A 1971 NC State CHASS graduate who went on to pursue dentistry at UNC-Chapel Hill, Ferrell is a dentist with an interest in history and literature. He began research on his book nearly two decades ago, most of it centered around trying to discover the role the state and its leaders played during the American Revolution and the years immediately following it.
“There are so many interesting things about the Revolution from the North Carolinian perspective. It was really interesting to delve into the 1790s. I tried to tell history through a very entertaining story,” says Ferrell.
The story begins as North Carolina considers ratifying the Constitution in 1787, and the political story is exposed through the various experiences of a young man who is trying to establish himself during the time. Ferrell compares his approach to that used in a famous approach in a novel about the Civil War. “Have you read the Cold Mountain? It shows beautifully how a guy would see the world in 1864,” he says. “I have tried to do that for the 1790s.”
The book is structured like a diary and weaves in a story of romance, mystery and political intrigue involving North Carolina leaders such as former Gov. William R. Davie, who is credited as being the father of the University of North Carolina.
“It’s an entertaining story of a young man finding love, his pitfalls, forbidden liaisons and horse racing, and among all these things it tells you so much about the issues facing our country at that time and how people then were thinking about the Constitution,” says Ferrell.
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When Russell Wilson stands in front of a group of future would-be NFLers, he doesn’t tell them how many passes they’ll complete, touchdowns they’ll catch or sacks they’ll rack up.
But he does tell the kids that they will succeed. And he helps them envision that success, whether it comes in football or some other endeavor.
That comes naturally to Wilson, who talks about his aspirations when his NFL days are done just as much as he does about his hopes for his success as the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. He says his academy is about more than football. It’s also about teaching the kids to dream.
Russell Wilson, center, addresses kids at his passing academy.
“To let them know to dream in something greater,” Wilson says. “I want to be a CEO with a business one day. …I want to own my own company and do my own things. But also, I want to be the best quarterback to ever play the game.”
The former Wolfpack quarterback is in Raleigh today running the Russell Wilson Passing Academy, a football camp that reaches out to inner-city and underprivileged youth. Wilson and other former Wolfpack players like J.R. Sweezy and Earl Wolff try to impart fundamental skills for all football positions.
Wilson loves bringing kids to the academy, which is also held in his hometown of Richmond, Va., Spokane, Wash., Seattle Wash., and Madison, Wisc., during the summer. “I love kids. Just to be around them, to share moments, to share my experience, that’s my biggest goal in this,” he says.
And Wilson gets something from the kids in return as he witnesses their dedication. “It’s really an honor to be here,” he says. “They’re all special kids, and they work so hard.”
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It’s not often that students in a 200-level biology class get their work displayed in a state museum. But that’s what’s happened with the detailed drawings done by the students in Jennifer Landin’s Biological Illustration class.
Landin, a teaching assistant professor who received her Ph.D. from NC State in 2011, began teaching the class in 2010. The goals of the course, along with helping students learn about the diversity of life, are to emphasize the power of observation and how drawing can enhance it. Students use pen and ink to record their observations about structures and forms as they learn about how those structures and forms evolved.
Work from Landin’s students was on exhibit earlier this year at the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island, and since May, 36 pieces have been on display at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. The detailed drawings include studies of the anatomy of a mosquito head, a comparison of two types of mushrooms, and the mechanism of toe adhesion in a gecko.
Landin says drawing skills aren’t necessary to succeed in the class. “I teach little tricks the very first week,” she says. “The important thing is getting them to observe closely.” Students who have taken the course include majors in biology and art and design and well as majors in engineering, history and English. The class started with only nine students. Today it is so popular that it fills to the maximum of 20; a second section is routinely added.
When Landin was growing up, she was torn between science and art. “I always enjoyed drawing and art and science — and then when I went to get my undergraduate degree, they didn’t allow interdisciplinary majors,” Landin says. She ended up choosing science, but put herself through graduate school by working as a graphic designer. She later got a job as a scientific illustrator at the University of Florida. At NC State, her doctoral research centered on using drawing as a tool to develop observational skills.
Landin loves the fact that biological illustrations allow students to use their art work to teach others. When they show off their portfolios and display their drawings, they also share excitement for biology.
The exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences will be up until July 31.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Smedes York was a good enough athlete at Raleigh’s Broughton High School to be offered a football scholarship by Duke University. But both his dad and his grandfather had attended NC State, and that’s where York expected to go to college. He also wanted to get into the family construction business, so it made sense to study engineering at NC State.
“I thought about that,” York said of the scholarship offer from Duke. “I think I was more flattered than actually considering it. So the only thing I really considered was NC State. I always wanted to be in the family business and I always wanted to to to NC State.”
York went on to play basketball at NC State, where he was active in several student organizations. He was also a lieutenant colonel in ROTC. When he was interviewed for the Student Leadership Initiative, an effort by NCSU Libraries to document the efforts of student leaders at NC State through the years and record their memories of their time on campus, York talked about some of his classes and professors at NC State and his impressions of the university that NC State has become in the years since he graduated in 1963. York went on to become president of York Properties and served for two terms as mayor of Raleigh.
In one of his videotaped interviews with the Student Leadership Initiative, York proudly recalled his academic record at NC State. He said he had been well prepared at Broughton High School, and received only two C’s during his time at NC State — one in an electrical engineering class and the other in an English composition class.
York, a former member of the university’s Board of Trustees and a former president of the Alumni Association, said he is impressed with the work NC State is doing in areas such as textiles, technology and veterinary medicine.
“Some of our friends at UNC used to call us ‘Cow College,’ but I haven’t heard that much lately, you know, with all the research in agricultural products and in textiles, and the technology and math and physics,” York said in one of the interviews. “And we’ve got a great leader in Randy Woodson, so I wouldn’t put my money on any other university.”
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For as long as she can remember, Christina Hammock has wanted to be an astronaut. She doesn’t recall any specific childhood moment when the thought first occurred to her. It was just always there — through middle school and high school in Jacksonville, N.C., and then through her years at NC State, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and electrical engineering in 2001 and a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2002.
“It’s literally been as long as I can remember,” she says. “I’m sure I heard about it when I was really young, but it’s been a lifelong dream.”
So Hammock, 34, was ready when the call came from NASA earlier this month to let her know if she had been selected as one of eight new astronaut candidates out of a pool of more than 6,000 applicants. At least she thought she was ready.
“When I got the call, I started the speech I had prepared for the person giving me the bad news,” she says. “Instead, they gave me good news. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea how to react to that news.”
That news — that Hammock has a chance to realize her lifelong dream — means she will spend the next two years training to be an astronaut. Assuming she passes all the physical and mental challenges of training, Hammock will become an astronaut. What her specific mission would be is not clear at this point, but NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in his announcement of the eight new astronaut candidates that they could do research on the International Space Station or lead the first human mission to an asteroid or to Mars.
“I just hope to represent the goals of the space program in whatever way I can,” Hammock says. “I’m very excited about just about every direction NASA is going in. I’m personally very excited about the research on the International Space Station, given my background in science.”
We spoke with Hammock from American Somoa, where she is the station chief of the climate observatory for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She has been there for about 10 months, the latest in a series of far-flung work locations that include the South Pole and the ice caps of Greenland. She once worked in minus 105-degree weather at the South Pole. “If you have the right clothing, it’s actually doable,” she says. “It takes many, many layers.”
Christina Hammock working at a remote science lab in Greenland.
Hammock says she typically runs the instruments for research being conducted at remote sites. That experience required her to to be able to think on her feet and handle the physical aspect of working in extreme conditions — attributes that may have contributed to her selection as an astronaut candidate. But she says she was drawn to that work naturally, not as a means to become an astronaut.
“There’s a whole list of check boxes that people who are interested in becoming astronauts can try to fill,” she says. “I decided early on that I was not going to live my life according to those check boxes. I was just interested in being my best and following my own dreams. If those skills I acquired made me into a good candidate, then I would apply.”
Among the skills Hammock will have to acquire in the next two years are how to fly a jet (although, given her background, she says she will eventually serve as a flight engineer rather than a pilot) and how to speak Russian (to help her work with Russian astronauts serving on the International Space Station). The training begins in August in Houston, and will take her all over the globe over the next two years.
“NC State prepared me really well,” Hammock says. “NC State is kind of where everything got started.”
During her time at NC State, Hammock did an internship in the astrophysics department. She credits physics professor Stephen Reynolds and engineering professor Cecilia Townsend with encouraging her. “They were instrumental in me believing I could follow my dreams,” she says.
Those dreams included being one of the few women working in a field like electrical engineering. Now, Hammock is one of four women — half of the group — selected as astronaut candidates.
“It’s just demonstrating that women are in a position now to follow their dreams,” she says. “There may be a wider variety of what’s acceptable for women to study and go into professionally. I was often the only girl in my engineering classes, but I never experienced any discrimination. Everyone was just really encouraging.”
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John Rowland, an outfielder on NC State’s 1968 College World Series team, couldn’t contain himself last week when this year’s Wolfpack team beat Rice to clinch a spot in Omaha. His first thought was to get a plane ticket and join the other members of that team traveling west to take in the 2013 College World Series.
But one thing stopped him. He couldn’t leave “Mulie” behind.
“Mulie” is Steve Martin, an All American in 1968 when he led that State team in a number of offensive categories. He lives in Crouse, N.C., and receives dialysis three times a week due to his liver failing him seven years ago. Because of that, he couldn’t make it to Omaha. But Rowland says his former roommate’s is a symbol of that 1968 season.
“Steve epitomizes what our team was like,” Rowland says. “People said, ‘You can’t do it.’ ‘You don’t belong here.’ And we survived.”
So instead of flying to Omaha, Rowland and some of the other members from that team — Gary Yount, Joe Frye and Clem Huffman — made their way to Crouse on Sunday, knocked on Martin’s door as a surprise and watched NC State’s defeat of North Carolina with him. The visit reflects the strong bond that team has shared the last 45 years.
From left to right: Gary Yount, Steve Martin, Joe Frye, John Rowland and Clem Huffman.
“That’s how our team was,” Rowland says. “We were a band of brothers.”
Martin, who says he was nicknamed “Mulie” when he got to State because of his stories of using a mule to plow on a tobacco farm growing up in Stokes County, was shocked by the visit. He says he spent the afternoon reminiscing with the guys about old teammates like “Chico,” third baseman Chris Cammack, and “Brass,” pitcher Mike Caldwell.
And, he says, he got to talk over the phone to some of his former teammates who made it to Omaha to watch the game. He says he’s stayed so close to the guys because of their North Carolina roots. “We have a good bond,” he says. “I think everybody thought we were underdogs because we didn’t have any out-of-state players. But we stuck together.”
Steve Martin in 1968.
That sticking together picked back up several years ago when the team started meeting once a year for a reunion. And they reflect each year on how they went to NC State’s first CWS as a unit, not as individuals.
“It was more of a team effort,” Martin says. “We went out there and thought nobody would beat us.”
But for Rowland, no player meant more to that squad than Martin, who was the co-captain of that team with pitcher Alex Cheek. Rowland says Martin had the quickest hands he’d ever seen, which equipped him with the skill to be one of the team’s best hitters. But it’s Martin’s victory all these years later off the field that made Rowland pause before he ordered his ticket to Omaha.
“Steve’s the epitome of survival,” he says. “I would love to be out there hollering in Omaha. But this is the game of life.”
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When you fish around for local lore in Omaha, Neb., you find out the city is known for more than being the host of the College World Series since 1950 and the hometown of Warren Buffett.
It turns out what’s become an American sandwich standard may have been invented there. The Reuben, usually of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing on rye, was invented by a grocer in Omaha, according to the locals, though there are some in New York City who might disagree. If you’re in Omaha cheering on the Wolfpack, in its first CWS since 1968, you can explore the varying interpretations of the Reuben throughout the city’s extensive restaurant culture. We caught up with Omaha-based alumni for suggestions on where to eat and what to see while in town.
David Connell ’82, a regional vice president of operations in Omaha for Union Pacific Railroad, says it’s a city known for beef and pork. “Omaha grew up around the railroad and the stockyards,” he says. “There are still a number of legacy steakhouses like Cascio’s and Johnny’s that serve up a great steak. You might catch Warren Buffett at Gorat’s on Center Street.”
And if a steak is too much, our Omaha-based alumni were unanimous in saying Dinker’s Bar makes one of the top burgers in town and serves as a regular hangout for fans during the CWS. Travis Withers ’00, a brand manager for ConAgra Foods, says to order the Husker Burger there and bring cash since they don’t take credit cards.
The CWS fever isn’t just felt at local burger joints. “Almost everyone gears up for the CWS like it’s a citywide party,” says John Payne ’95, an employee of the Omaha Public Schools. “You can hear the radio broadcast of the games in the grocery store. Many folks here pick a team to cheer, even if there is no personal connection to the college.”
Connell echoes that, making a comparison to an event everyone in North Carolina knows. “[The CWS] is the ACC basketball tournament of Nebraska,” he says, adding that TD Ameritrade Park, which replaced Rosenblatt Stadium as the site of the games in 2011, is a venue to behold. “The whole city shows up to watch the best baseball that can be found.”
When the games are over, or if it rains, there’s plenty to do in the city. Our alumni say the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is one of the premier zoos in the country. There’s also the Omaha Children’s Museum and the Durham Museum, which is an old train station converted into a museum. And the downtown area has a many shops included in what is called the Old Market.
Connell says that no matter what you choose, you’ll find Omaha is a great city known for its food, art and culture. “Omaha doesn’t look like the ‘cowtown’ it started as, and you can count on the welcome mat at the door.”
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Six years ago, during an excruciating eight-hour wait at the chemotherapy clinic, Joe Pagani began an online support group for his wife, Jen Pagani, who had been diagnosed with a rare and an aggressive form of breast cancer.
And what started as an appeal to family and friends for support is now a nonprofit organization that supports many other individuals and families battling breast cancer.
Joe Pagani, a 1986 graduate of NC State with a business degree, and Jen Pagani, are the founders of GoJenGo (GJG), based in Charlotte. The nonprofit provides financial assistance and emotional support to individuals and families during diagnosis, treatment and recovery. It promotes awareness of treatment options for individuals diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, and provides financial assistance to organizations conducting breast cancer research.
Participants in the 2011 Komen Race for the Cure wear their GoJenGo shirts.
“It all began while we were sitting at the chemotherapy center and I had my computer open,” Joe Pagani says. He was researching the Susan G. Komen Foundation site, and he set up an online support community for Jen. Support poured in from friends, family and others who helped by providing food, gift cards and care for their two kids.
“We got more support and assistance than we needed and we realized there were many others who need that support and assistance,” he says.
Left to right: Rocco, Luca, Jen and Joe Pagani.
An entrepreneur, Joe Pagani also has been part of various for-profit business start-ups and is currently the director of a textile company in Jacksonville, N.C. Jen Pagani, who still battles cancer, maintains a blog, which is a passionate account of her fight with cancer and has around 2,000 followers. She writes about the treatments that did and did not work and about the relationships she’s formed during her battle.
Because of the assistance their family received, they wanted to do more. So GJG provides financial assistance and emotional support to around 20 families on a monthly basis. It focuses on getting assistance to women and families who don’t qualify for government assistance and have very little other means. It also stages fundraisers to help raise money and awareness. The next one will take place in October as a joint effort with the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“Our focus is on women and families who do not qualify for government assistance and somehow fall through the cracks across the U.S.,” Joe Pagani says.
The GJG organization concentrates its efforts on families based in North and South Carolina, but Joe Pagani hopes to extend its efforts beyond the borders of the two states and even the country.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be able to make a difference in another’s life,” he says. “Just to see the relief in the eyes of those who are facing this tremendous battle.”
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