Abie Harris will turn 80 in early January, and his friends and colleagues at the Roundabout Art Collective in Raleigh have come up with a special way to celebrate the occasion and Harris’ long ties to NC State.
Harris is an NC State alumnus, having graduated with a degree in design in 1957. Following graduation, Harris won the prestigious Paris Prize in Architecture and was able to travel and study throughout Europe. He eventually returned to NC State as a professor in the College of Design and the university architect, a job that gave him a leading role in the development of Centennial Campus and the re-development of Main Campus.
But Harris is also an artist, focusing on drawing in pastels and acrylics since he retired from NC State in 1998. He is a charter artist at the Roundabout Art Collective, which will celebrate his 80th birthday with a retrospective of his life in art. The show, which opens on Jan. 3 as part of Raleigh’s First Friday festivities, will feature nearly 60 years of Harris’ drawings and paintings. Some of the drawings will be sketches of buildings on NC State’s campus that Harris did while he worked at the university. On Saturday, Jan. 4, Harris will open the studio and gallery in his home in Raleigh to showcase more of his works.
A drawing by Harris of the Parthenon from his travels as a recipient of the Paris Prize
“There are drawings that were part of my work as university architect,” Harris says. “There are a lot of travel sketches and recent paintings that I’ve done. It will have a lot of variety.”
Even in retirement, Harris has maintained his ties to NC State, walking across campus every day to work out in Carmichael Gym. It’s a campus that he helped shape and design.
When Harris was hired as the university architect, Chancellor John T. Caldwell was clear about his mission. “Caldwell charged me with making the campus a better looking place,” Harris recalls. “Looking back at it, I feel very satisfied that the campus is much nicer today than it was then.”
The Court of North Carolina, for instance, had a street running through it when Harris started working at NC State. “We have taken parking lots and made courtyards out of them,” he says. “The whole emphasis was on the spaces in between. That is something that is starting to mature and blossom.”
The creative energy that Harris brought to his work on campus is now directed into his art. He says that joining the Roundabout Art Collective — and surrounding himself with high-energy, creative people — has been a boon to his own productivity.
“I very much enjoy the process,” Harris says of his drawings and paintings. “I enjoy the finished product because it’s very seldom what I imagine it’s going to be. I’ve always enjoyed putting ink or color on paper and seeing how those interact and take on a life of its own.”
Harris recently took on the unusual challenge of drawing music. Yes, drawing music. Harris was challenged by a friend who performs in the N.C. Symphony to draw the Goldberg Variations, compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, during a recent performance by the symphony. So Harris drew the music — he ended up creating about 50 drawings (right) and paintings — while listening to the symphony perform. “That was fairly unusual,” he says.
Harris is excited about the upcoming retrospective.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself going through this process,” he says. “I like to draw and hope to continue to draw. I hope that people just appreciate that process.”
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The first commencement ceremony at NC State — at that time, the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts — was a three-day affair that took place in the spring of 1893. And for the next 97 years, the spring event was the only annual graduation ceremony to take place at the university.
But that all changed on this day in 1991, when 6,000 people gathered in Reynolds Coliseum to be a part of NC State’s first fall commencement.
A Technician article explained the December ceremony, which would become a mainstay at the university, arose after a many student pleas and requests by the NCSU Parent’s Board. Up until then, students who had graduated in the summer or fall would have to wait until the subsequent spring to put on their robe and stride boastfully to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
According to the article, 1,900 students received their diplomas that day, and Larry Monteith, who was chancellor, addressed the graduates and their families.
“We will need leadership,” Monteith said in closing, “we will need commitment, we will need education, we will need goodwill and we will need moral character.”
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The initial inspiration came years ago, from a political book by Ann Coulter poking fun at liberals. Tor Ramsey figured that if a conservative commentator could write a book entitled How to Talk to a Liberal (If you Must), he could do something similar to give voice to his feelings about the University of North Carolina and the fans who favor light blue.
Ramsey is a proud graduate of NC State, having served as a student manager for the basketball team when he was led by Jim Valvano. So he was intrigued by the notion of a book that poked fun at UNC fans like Coulter’s book had done with liberals.
So over the course of the next few days, Ramsey jotted down all sorts of ideas for such a book. And then he lost his notes, when an airline misplaced his luggage on a flight home for the holidays. That was in 2005, and Ramsey didn’t work on the project again until problems started cropping up in UNC’s football program a few years ago. He thought that UNC was getting off easier than NC State had when the basketball program had problems under Valvano.
“It seemed like Carolina got a pass,” says Ramsey. “I’m not a vindictive guy. I am a comedic writer…I like looking at the warped slant on things. I didn’t want to get too personal, but just state the obvious. It was not difficult coming up with material. I got material every time someone at Carolina made a statement about the scandal.”
And so Ramsey’s book, How to Talk to a Carolina Fan, became a reality. He self-published the book, and it is now available for sale.
Ramsey is quick to note that he is simply trying to have a bit of fun with a longtime rival, and that he largely spared UNC student-athletes from the barbs in his book (“My real beef is not with the student-athletes,” he says. “When you’re young like that, people do stupid things. NC State has had its fair share. My problem is with the adults who are either the enabler or they make excuses.”)
The book’s primary targets are obvious from the cover, with cartoon renderings of the likes of former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, former athletics director Dick Baddour and former football coach Butch Davis. The book includes chapters on “8 Simple Reasons to Hate Carolina” and “Reasons Not to Hate Carolina (or the shortest chapter in this book).”
Ramsey offers up tongue-in-cheek advice on what to do if a Carolina fan sits next to you in a restaurant or, horror of horrors, if your child comes home one day and tells you that he or she is a Carolina fan.
Last year, Ramsey finished another longtime project when he released a serious documentary, Running With the Pack, on the history of NC State basketball. The book project, he says, was a completely different sort of project. The book can be purchased through the website for “Running With the Pack.”
“I was writing with a certain reckless abandon,” he says. “How far can I go? How much fun can I have? It was a form of free-fall writing.”
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As a high school student, Amber Smith wanted to make a difference somewhere. She just didn’t know where that “somewhere” was.
That uncertainty continued to nag at Smith during her first two years as a student at NC State. It wasn’t until she decided to take a break from school and join a friend, Heather Leah, on a cross-country road trip that she started to find some answers. For two a half months, Smith and Leah volunteered in every state they visited.
“[We] really got the sense that people wanted to make a difference, they just weren’t sure where to get started,” says Smith. “At the same time, there were all these causes that were constantly in need of more manpower and more help.”
With that in mind, Smith and Leah founded ME3, which stands for Motivate, Educate, Empower and Engage, in 2005. Renamed Activate Good in 2011, the Raleigh-based nonprofit aims to help volunteers find causes that need them. Both volunteers and nonprofits can create an account on the website for free.
“You can participate in short-term project or even on one day, you can use your special skills to help complete a project for a cause, you can make an ongoing commitment. It really doesn’t matter what your skills, schedule or interests are, there’s something out there for you,” says Smith.
After taking a few years off from school, Smith re-enrolled and created her own major, called “social change leadership,” through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ interdisciplinary studies program. She wanted to explore the question of how social change is made and the traits of those who help make it happen.
After completing her undergraduate degree in 2009, Smith went back to NC State and received a masters in public administration and nonprofit management in 2012. Through her education, Smith says she developed a better understanding of nonprofits and was able to apply that to her work.
While Activate Good’s volunteer network is more than 4,500 strong, Smith says it isn’t just about helping people volunteer. Through it, she says she wants create a culture of volunteerism in the Triangle and beyond.
“We want volunteering to be as commonplace as shopping or going out to eat,” says Smith, who is the executive director of Activate Good.
That’s why, in 2009, Activate Good began work on Activate Schools, a curriculum for high school students that seeks to instill the importance of volunteering as a way to solve community issues. The program began during the 2010-11 school year at a few Raleigh-area high schools and is something Smith says she wish she had at that age.
“I think that disconnect in understanding what volunteerism was and how I couldn’t find my passion when I was in high school was something that prompted me to help others to find their passion,” she says.
Activate Good also organizes a volunteering effort in Raleigh each Sept. 11 for the 9/11 Day of Service. In 2013, 1,500 volunteers took part in more than 40 service projects around the city. Smith says she’d like to see even more volunteers next year.
In the years ahead, Smith says she’s looking in to way to make Activate Good financially sustainable while continuing to grow it. While working toward that goal isn’t always easy, seeing the difference her work is making keeps her going.
“The moments where you kind of see that real community change is occurring, I’d say those are the most rewarding,” she says.
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When you consider all that Carroll Lamb Mann did for NC State during his 47 years as a professor of civil engineering (including 32 years as head of the Department of Civil Engineering), it’s not surprising that he would have a building on campus named for him.
But two buildings?
On this day in 1963, the Technician reported that the new civil engineering building had been completed. The story noted that the four-story building, with more than 76,000 square feet of space, would be named after Mann.
What the story did not note was that it would be the second building at NC State that had been named for Mann. The other building had been incorporated into Daniels Hall in 1956, some seven years earlier.
The new civil engineering building was a 65 percent increase in existing engineering facilities on campus, but it was also designed so that it could be expanded either vertically or horizontally, according to the story.
It was, as noted by NC State’s facilities division, typical of many building constructed in the 19609s. But it included at least one feature not found in most buildings — a five-foot thick concrete slab floor in a lab used for structural testing.
Mann, the building’s namesake, spent much of his life at NC State. He majored in civil engineering at the end of the 19th century, earning his degree in 1899. After working as a surveyor (he was part of an effort to study the feasibility of building a canal across Nicaragua), Mann returned to NC State as a professor of civil engineering and served as head of the Department of Civil Engineering for 32 years. He would teach at NC State for nearly five decades before retiring in 1948.
He also served for 30 years as chairman of the alumni memorial committee that conceived of and constructed the Memorial Bell Tower. The tower was dedicated in 1949, one year after Mann’s retirement from NC State.
“My greatest experience has been the work I have done on that tower,” Mann once said. “When the time comes for me to die, the last think I want to hear are the chimes on Memorial Tower at the College.”
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College students can be a fickle lot, and picking out a Christmas present for them can be a complicated exercise nowadays. Parents may not necessarily know about all the latest gadgets and technology or be up to date on the latest fashions.
But in 1961, students’ wants were more black-and-white, as a simple extended holiday break was at the top of their Christmas lists.
According to an article in The Technician, a petition signed by 3,503 students was submitted to the administration asking that winter break begin on Dec. 16 instead of on Dec. 19, the original start date.
Student government supported the petition, and student body president Norris Tolson said he would present the petition to the dean of student affairs, who would then take it up with the chancellor.
But on this day 52 years ago, the administration acted as the Grinch and said no to the students’ request. The decision was based on the fact that NC State already had more holidays than UNC and that the university’s academic calendar should be more closely aligned with the other universities in the consolidated system.
Tolson vowed to appoint a committee to study the idea further and saluted student solidarity in the matter.
“I commend you for your united effort to express your opinions about the issue,” he said in The Technician. “It is commendable that you were diplomatic and discreet in your disapproval. Your voice has been heard and, though, of no value to you this Christmas, I can assure you that all possible steps will be taken to alleviate the situation next year.”
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For 35 years, members of the Air Force ROTC’s Marching Cadets stood guard at the Bell Tower to honor veterans on Pearl Harbor Day. At noon Saturday, members of the now-dissolved fraternity are again meeting at the tower to pay their respects.
Founded in 1960, the Marching Cadets (MCs) served as the Air Force ROTC drill team, presenting the colors at football and basketball games and marching in local parades while spinning, throwing and catching M1 rifles. As its annual service project, the organization would guard the Bell Tower for 24 hours every Dec. 6-7 and hold a wreath laying ceremony.
A Marching Cadet at the Bell Tower in 1977
“Even though it was usually right in the middle of exams, we would go out and take turns for an hour at a time at the Bell Tower in groups of four or five,” says Marching Cadet Will Compton, a 1988 graduate. “It was modeled after the tomb of the unknown solider.”
Though they won’t be in uniform or guarding the tower this year, a group of Marching Cadets plans to honor World War II veteran Millie Beasey with an informal ceremony and wreath laying. Beasey served in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-female, all-black postal battalion that helped deliver mail to the front lines in Europe.
T.C. Moore, a Marching Cadet and 1988 graduate, says the group plans to talk to Beasey about her experiences, explain the significance of the tower and share some stories from past ceremonies. Moore and Compton say that while Dec. 6 always used to feel like the coldest night of the year, it was a special one for the cadets.
“It was just a unique feeling to be standing there,” Moore says. “It just gave you a time to reflect on what sacrifices people in the military have made and what they gave up, and you knew you were doing your own little part in helping honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Compton delivered a speech at his first ceremony in 1986. He says having the chance to speak about the events of Dec. 7, 1941, in front of a Pearl Harbor survivor is something he’ll never forget.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” he says. “To actually have the Pearl Harbor survivor present certainly evoked images of what they went through.”
As a freshman, Moore noticed those wearing the Marching Cadets’ red-and-white cords always seemed to have it together and asked how he could join. Both Moore and Compton pledged in spring of 1986 and were inducted the weekend of the North Carolina Azalea Festival parade in Wilmington, N.C., one of the biggest events the group participated in.
Both Compton and Moore served in the Air Force after graduation. Moore now works for the Air Force as a civilian contractor and Compton is a Delta Airlines pilot.
Over the years, the Marching Cadets became an incredibly tight-knit group of men and women. And once members were initiated, they were in for life, even if they graduated or dropped out — Moore says it isn’t uncommon to see graduates come back to meetings or help out at events.
The group fell on hard times in the ’90s when Air Force ROTC’s national headquarters withdrew its sponsorship and membership declined from about 30 ROTC members to less than 20. Though the Marching Cadets fraternity dissolved in 1996, its legacy hasn’t — the Air Force ROTC guards the Bell Tower overnight for Veterans Day and the cadets held a reunion in 2011.
After the reunion, Compton, Moore and other Raleigh-area members decided to bring back “team eats,” a dining-out tradition from their college days. They try to get together for dinner once a month.
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Students at NC State have always been an honorable bunch, but there was a a time when some felt that it was necessary to be a bit more rigid about questions of honor.
On this day in 1980, the Technician published a story saying that students registering in the spring would be required to fill out an honor-code card before they could receive their schedule. The shift was announced by the student government attorney general.
Beginning in the fall of 1982, incoming freshmen would be required to sign an honor-code card before they could even register for classes. The honor-code card would be in effect for the duration of the student’s time at NC State.
The story noted that there was a longstanding policy at NC State requiring honor codes for students, but that the policy had not been strictly enforced. There was nothing in the story to indicate whether any particular problems had prompted this new vigilance in enforcing the policy.
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Kat Robichaud received her degree from NC State in graphic design in 2006 and then spent seven years touring with a glam rock band called The Design. After her band broke up last October, she got a call to audition for NBC’s The Voice.
Since then, her life has been a whirlwind as she flew back and forth from Raleigh to Los Angeles for auditions, then tapings and, finally, live shows. With audience votes and saves from the show’s coaches, she made it to the Top 10, no easy feat. If you want to hear Robichaud sing, she’ll be performing Friday on WUNC-FM’s “The State of Things” at noon (EST). (If you’re outside the listening area, you can hear the live stream by going to the show’s website.)
We sat down with Robichaud this week to talk about her experiences and her plans for the future.
What would surprise people most about the inner workings of the show? The way that it’s shot is pretty much how it is….Once you get to the live shows, though, time is really of the essence. We’d get a group song the day before the performance; it was like crunch time. We would have to go up there, learn our lyrics, do a good job, learn the choreography. … And you’re not sleeping very much. They’re constantly reminding you to take care of yourself, to get enough rest, to keep yourself hydrated, to take Vitamin C.
You wore some interesting costumes, from leather pants for Alanis Morrissette’s “You Oughta Know” to a flamenco-inspired dress for Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.” Did you pick out the clothes or did the show choose? Each person put together a “look book” of outfits we liked. I put pictures of David Bowie, Florence and the Machine, the Rocky Horror Picture Show… The head of the wardrobe department would go out shopping and come back with racks of clothing. I would say, “I don’t like this,’’ or “Oh, my god, I love this so much.” She really got me. And then the wardrobe fittings took four or five hours.
What were some of best coaching tips you received? There were two vocal coaches that we worked with….They are legends, they are fantastic. I learned — relearned, really — a lot of stuff that I’d forgotten. Proper warm-up techniques, loosening your jaw…. pushing from your diaphragm. CeeLo [Green, Robichaud’s celebrity coach] really wanted to be myself, which became harder and harder – but not because of the show. The show was always extremely supportive. It was like, “Kat wants to crowd surf? Let her do it.” …. The show was supportive; America wasn’t as supportive at times.
If you had stayed on the show, what would your next song have been? “Applause” by Lady Gaga. It would have been awesome.
Do people in Raleigh recognize you? We were at the flea market. Some lady jumped out, “I know you — you did a great job on The Voice! ” and then she disappeared back into the circle. Some people don’t realize I’m not really like that famous, and they think they can’t talk to you…We had a waitress the other night, and at the very end of the meal, she’s like, “I hope I’m not bothering you…” We’re like, “Dude do you want to sit down with us? Do you want a glass of wine?” Because this is actually super enjoyable for me.
What’s next? Are you going to be The Voice finale show? I am leaving Monday for L.A. to prepare for the reunion show Dec. 17. The Top 20 will all be performing… And I am writing a new album. I’ve got some great material. I’m going to go on tour. So it’s write, tour, be happy.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
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When the kids run around in Oxford, N.C., in the summer and see town staple Charlie Easton and his full white beard hanging well below his chin, they ask the inevitable question: Is he Santa?
“What I tell them is that I’m Santa’s best friend and I help him out,” says Easton.
And it’s this time of the year when Easton, 76, says he helps his friend out the most by embodying the jolly old elf, donning the red suit as “Santa” Charlie in holiday parades and at Triangle malls and private functions.
“It’s the best job I ever had,” says Easton, who graduated from NC State’s Agricultural Institute and worked for 35 years in the textile industry. “I tell people I’m just a granddaddy whose grandchildren got too big to sit on his lap. So now I get to hold everybody else’s.”
Easton can be seen regularly sitting on his throne at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, his main station for helping Santa out the last seven years. He started about 10 years ago when he first rode as Kris Kringle in the Oxford Christmas parade. He has his own Santa business card and had to go through a job interview that would objectify candidates if it was any other profession. “They just look at you and see what you look like,” Easton says.
His routine starts in early November with his annual swig of cold medicine to fight the cough he knows he’s going to get. He and other area Santas get a tour at Toys “R” Us to acquaint themselves with what the children ask for. The only day Easton gets off during the season is Thanksgiving. He works in four-to-five-hour shifts and will continue to hold babies and judge the naughty and nice right up until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Every Christmas season, Easton comes up with a theme to develop. This year, it includes his charge to each child who sits on his lap with telling their parents they love them on Christmas morning. (“That’s the greatest gift they can give,” he says.) And he has a little toy, Pete the Penguin, which he says is usually a pretty good remedy to get an unruly or scared child engaged.
There are his regulars who come by, like a group of ladies who are in their 90s who come by every year to have their picture taken with him. And there are always firsts for him, like last year when he got to hold 9-month-old quintuplets.
Or like the time when a daughter requested her mother and father sit on his lap for a pic, only to be surprised by their other daughter, who had been deployed in Afghanistan for 15 months, popping around the corner. “Everybody cried that day,” he says. “Even Santa.”
In his decade of evoking Santa’s spirit, Easton has seen things change. He’s had to deal with the explosion of Elf on the Shelf, the popular toy that “watches” children’s behavior up until the day of Christmas. Children’s wants have changed from footballs and dolls to iPhones and iPads.
And kids have become more inquisitive about how Santa delivers all those toys. “You know, a lot of houses don’t have chimneys,” he says. “I tell them I have a mouse that can get in their house and let me in.”
But what hasn’t changed is Easton’s sense of joy this time of year and his faith in the spirit of Christmas.
“You’d be surprised at the number of children who come up and ask that all the children who don’t have anything get a present from me this year,” he says. “I still believe in Santa.”
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