Alumni News Category
Lane Burt grew up in a family of engineers. Burt’s father and grandfather are both engineers, and both graduated from NC State. So it’s only natural that Burt, who graduated from NC State in 2005 with a degree in mechanical engineering, is pursuing a career in engineering.
And in February, part of that career will be spent in Australia collaborating with researchers overseas about the evolution of policies in energy efficiency and climate change.
Burt is the 2014 recipient of the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Climate Change and Clean Energy. The Fulbright program, sponsored by Australian and U.S. governments, provides short-term research grants to professionals in a variety of academic fields to pursue collaborative projects with eligible institutions overseas. Burt will study at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
Burt’s passion for energy efficiency research originated from his family’s construction business in Huntersville, N.C., where he worked during summer months in college.
“It’s hard to understand how much energy is actually wasted,” he says. “I’ve always had a conservationist streak, but I really noticed it when I worked in construction. It didn’t seem like a big enough issue for building managers to keep their buildings running properly.”
As a result, Burt later created Ember Strategies, a startup firm that works with clients to help them adapt to energy saving standards and products. Before he founded Ember Strategies in 2013, Burt worked in Washington, D.C., as the policy director for the U.S. Green Building Council and on the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Burt says working in Washington was one of the most valuable experiences he’s had as an engineer. “Policy makers really valued my technical knowledge and experience,” he says. “They don’t hear from engineers a lot.”
One of the biggest challenges Burt says he faces is getting people to recognize the concrete, daily changes they need to make in order to save energy, and, in turn, save money.
“Whether it’s at Ember or not, everyone is for saving money,” he says. “But when you dig deeper, it takes real effort and time.”
– Will Watkins
At the beginning, Eddie and Elizabeth Yountz were simply making plans to attend a family wedding in Los Angeles.
But as long as they were traveling so far west — the Yountz’ live in Lake Lure, N.C., — Eddie wondered if they could include a stop to see the Grand Canyon, a destination he had long wanted to visit.
And then Elizabeth figured, if we’re stopping to see the Grand Canyon, why not squeeze in a few more stops along the way? Maybe, she thought, she could fulfill one of her longtime goals — to visit each of the 50 states.
“The next thing I knew, we had a round-the-country trip planned,” says Eddie, a retired engineer who graduated from NC State in 1975. “She a Type A, so it’s hard to keep her down.”
Indeed, the Yountzes decided to use the family wedding as an occasion to see much of the country, including a stop in each of the seven states that Elizabeth had yet to visit. They planned out a three-week road trip that took them from Lake Lure to Los Angeles and back — with stops at attractions ranging from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to Graceland in Memphis, Tenn.
They saw the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and the the Hoover Dam on their way to Las Vegas. They rafted the Snake River, visited the mill in Utah where Kevin Bacon filmed a dance scene for Footloose, and took in the acclaimed fountain show at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas strip. They drove down California’s Highway 1 along the coast of the Pacific Ocean and along parts of legendary Route 66 through Arizona. They saw the Hearst Castle in California, Mark Twain’s house in Missouri and visited the Wall Drug Store in South Dakota.
And, yes, they spent a couple of days visiting the Grand Canyon.
“I really enjoyed the Grand Canyon,” Eddie says. “Pictures don’t do it justice. You just don’t realize how beautiful it is until you get there.”
But then Eddie — and Elizabeth — say they enjoyed just about everything about the trip. Sure, they liked some stops more than others (Eddie wasn’t a fan of the traffic in California, and Elizabeth says the Four Corners Monument at the point where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet was underwhelming), but the trip was full of highlights for both of them (Eddie enjoyed Monument Valley in Arizona and got a kick out of Cadillac Ranch in Texas, while Elizabeth found South Dakota to be stunningly beautiful, was amazed by Devils Tower in Wyoming and found an “absolutely stunning” wood and glass chapel in Garvan Memorial Gardens in Arkansas).
They had fun watching folks try (and fail) to earn a free meal at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo by eating a 72 ounce steak, a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, salad and roll in one hour. They were not tempted, though, to try it themselves. “No, we’re old folks, we can’t eat like that,” says Elizabeth.
They both gained a greater appreciation for the diversity and scale of the United States.
“I think everybody needs to do this trip,” Eddie says. “You can’t appreciate this country until you do that. It’s just an absolutely beautiful, beautiful country.”
Or, as Elizabeth says, “It floors you, just the expanse of some of these places. In Iowa, you see all the cornfields and windmills. Then you get in the desert — lower Utah is stunning. Just gorgeous.”
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Eddie and Elizabeth found a unique way to share their trip with others — one that fellow Wolfpack fans should particularly enjoy. You see, Eddie and Elizabeth are season-ticket holders for NC State football games, often traveling to away games as well (even though Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of South Carolina). So being lovers of all things NC State, they decided to bring a bit of the Wolfpack with them on their travels.
They made the trip in red Jeep, with a large block-S on the spare tire cover on the back of the car. And at each significant stop, they found a way to feature their car and its Wolfpack logo in a photo showing their location.
“I said, ‘We ought to take pictures of this thing traveling across the country,’” recalls Eddie. “She said, ‘We ought to take the logo on a vacation.’”
They had a few challenges along the way — it was tough to find a place to park near the Arch in St. Louis and the steady stream of traffic around Graceland made it difficult to hop out and get a photo — but Elizabeth says it usually wasn’t difficult to find a good spot to park the car for most of their photos. They had to drive through several Los Angeles neighborhoods, though, before they found a suitable angle to get a good shot of the car and the Hollywood sign, and an executive with the San Diego Chargers tried to shoo them away as the team (and NC State alum Philip Rivers) was coming in for practice at the team’s facility.
“We had a lot of fun taking the photos of the car,” Elizabeth says. “He would jump out and take the picture. We had to grab our moment.”
(To see all of the photos — and they are worth taking the time to do so — visit our Facebook page to see the gallery from the Yountz’ epic summer road trip.)
By now, you probably suspect that the Yountz’ are seasoned travelers, with Elizabeth having visited all 50 states now. (Eddie still has seven to go to finish his list.) But they say that’s not the case, that they had never taken a trip remotely like this before.
They say that a couple of simple ground rules (and a GPS that told them when and where to turn) were critical to the success of the trip. As they were pulling out of their driveway on July 20 to begin their trip — one that wouldn’t bring them back home until Aug. 13 — they stopped briefly to stress that back-seat driving would not be allowed. They both took turns driving — Elizabeth typically took the morning shift and Eddie drove in the afternoons — and agreed that they would only speak up if the driver was tailgating or the passenger saw a potential disaster unfolding.
“We’ve been married for 34 years,” Elizabeth says. “We weren’t sure how we were going to be able to handle being enclosed together that long. But we came back feeling closer. We had a ball.”
Eddie agrees: “We got along great, the best we’ve gotten along in years. I think everybody needs to do this trip.”
Though it’s not in the ACC, East Carolina has long been considered one of NC State’s chief gridiron rivals. There’s even a victory barrel for the winner of the contest to take home whenever they play.
But on this day 36 years ago, while the the Wolfpack notched a 29-13 win over the Pirates, NC State kicker Nathan Ritter took home a school record.
Yes, it was an important win over East Carolina, the first for the Wolfpack in three years. But it was, as the Technician reported, Ritter’s foot that was the star.
“Showing his stuff more prominently than anyone else was Nathan Ritter, an unheralded High Point sophomore who set a school record by kicking five field goals and accounting for 17 points,” the Technician reported. “The 5-8, 150 pounder demonstrated excellent range and accuracy while booting three-pointers of 48, 29, 46, 34 and 44 yards.
“Before Ritter’s performance, no one in Wolfpack history had kicked more than three field goals or had scored more than 12 points kicking during a game. His only miss was a mere 41 yards, which he pulled left of the upright in the second quarter.”
Ritter’s mark still stands in the Wolfpack record books today.
It has taken five years of dealing with government bureaucrats, courtrooms and lawyers, but Ana Leiderman’s spouse may finally be able to do what most adults take for granted — become the legal parent of her children.
Leiderman and her wife, Veronica Botero, won a ruling in Columbia’s Constitutional Court last week that made headlines in the international press as a breakthrough in the fight for civil rights for gays and lesbians in South America. The court ruled that Botero had the right to adopt the biological child of her partner, Leiderman, even though Botero and Leiderman are the same gender.
Raquel, Ana Leiderman, Ari and Veronica Botero
While the ruling narrowly applies to the specific circumstances of Leiderman and Botero, Leiderman says it has the potential to help other gay and lesbian couples in Columbia.
“Yes, it’s history,” says Leiderman, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in textiles from NC State in the 1990s and now lives in Medellín, Columbia. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard it.”
That’s because it has been such a difficult journey for Leiderman, Botero and their family.
The couple were married in Germany in 2005 in what Leiderman said was technically considered a “civil partnership” and then later married in the United States.
The couple initially looked into adoption in Columbia, where Botero is a university professor. But while there were no explicit laws against adoptions by lesbian couples in Columbia, Leiderman says it was understood that adoption agencies would find reasons not to approve adoptions by lesbian or gay couples. So Leiderman underwent artificial insemination, leading to the birth of Raquel.
But Raquel’s birth certificate listed Leiderman as her only parent. So Leiderman and Botero explored ways that Botero could legally adopt their daughter.
“We looked for a way to grant her the legal protection of both of her parents, both of her moms,” says Leiderman. “But it was also to protect my wife, if something happens, to give her custody. We don’t need a paper to have a family. But in case something happened, we definitely needed a piece of paper.”
Leiderman and Botero were rejected by the government agency responsible for adoptions. “They ignored all the rules,” says Leiderman. “They just said, ‘You are not a family.’”
What followed were years of court cases, rulings and appeals that finally culminated in last week’s ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court. Leiderman says she is still struggling to believe it is real. “By December, we should have a piece of paper, if everything goes okay,” she says. “It’s been so long. I will believe it when I get paper that says our kid has two legal moms.”
Leiderman, who has worked in textile quality and development for companies such as adidas and UnderArmour and taught business and financial literacy, says the ruling applies to both of their children — Raquel, who is now six, and Ari, who is four and was born after the court battle began.
It will send a powerful message, Leiderman says, if her family finally receives full legal status.
“We have families that do exist,” she says. “We are here. It’s just that we are often invisible, and invisible people don’t have rights. It’s an opportunity for other people to come out of the closet, to show that we have good, well-adjusted, intelligent kids.”
Bryan Hum got an unexpected treat not long after he sat down to dinner last night at a restaurant in Albany, New York. And it appears he has a fellow NC State alumnus to thank for the pleasant surprise.
Hum, a 2013 NC State graduate who majored in international studies and political science, is in his second year of law school at Albany Law School. After attending a Student Bar Association meeting last night, Hum and a friend walked to a favorite restaurant for dinner. They had just ordered drinks, when a waitress walked up and handed Hum a hand-written note and a $20 bill. She said another diner had noticed Hum’s red NC State t-shirt, and asked her to give him the note and the money.
“Apply this to your bill! God bless!” read the the note. It was signed “Brian,” with no last name, and indicated that “Brian” was a 1996 NC State graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Hum’s initial reaction was confusion. He wondered if it came from someone he knew, particularly since it was signed “Brian,” a different spelling of Hum’s first name. He asked the waitress to point the customer out, but she said that he had given her the note and the money as he was leaving. “He saw your shirt and wanted you to apply this to your bill,” the waitress told Hum.
Hum thought briefly about going outside to try to track down his benefactor, but quickly realized that he appreciated the anonymous nature of the gift from a fellow Wolfpacker.
“I was just astounded by it,” Hum said this morning. “It really touched me. It made me want to pay it forward myself.”
It also reinforced the strong feelings that Hum already had for NC State and its alumni — something that he quickly shared with friends via social media. “We talk about the great alumni we have, and this just proves it,” he said. “We look out for each other. It’s just a great connection we all have.”
Hum says he only spent $15 of the gift on his dinner, and plans to use the remaining $5 to pay it forward – hopefully sometime later today or this weekend.
Justin LeBlanc, the NC State graduate and design professor who won fans and friends on Lifetime’s “Project Runway” last year, is previewing his spring/summer 2015 collection tonight with a show titled “Inaudible.”
In the collection LeBlanc, who is deaf and wears a cochlear implant, revisits the theme of his thesis show at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he explored communication between hearing and deaf people.
He describes the looks as upscale, casual and comfortable. No word on whether we’ll see anything like the gown made of tiny pipettes that wowed the judges last summer on the “Project Runway” finale, but the collection does include the use of 3-D printing, something that’s become a hallmark of LeBlanc’s style. You can buy one of LeBlanc’s 3-D printed bow ties on jleblancdesign.com.
LeBlanc has been busy since “Project Runway.” He spoke to students at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design about his transition from architecture to fashion, showed his 3-D printed fashion at the International CES Show in Las Vegas, Nev., and presented a collection last spring at Charleston Fashion Week. That was on top of teaching classes and serving as co-director of NC State’s own Art2Wear show.
The show is 7:30 p.m. Thursday at CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St. Tickets can be purchased at camraleigh.org.
A sponsor of the event is Bida Manda restaurant, a Laotian restaurant in Raleigh owned by Vansana Nolintha, who was a Caldwell Fellow at NC State with LeBlanc. (We profiled Nolintha in the Autumn 2013 issue of NC State magazine.) Arts Access, a Raleigh-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to the arts to those with disabilities, will provide a sign language interpreter and an audio description of the event.
–Sylvia Adcock ’81
Filmmakers Kieran Moreira and Andrew Martin were sitting around in the summer of 2012, charged by their boss at Drawbridge Media, a Raleigh video production company, to find content the studio could produce. They read script after script, but nothing really struck the pair. So Moreira decided to present his own idea.
“I had this one idea I called ‘Cloud Fortress,’” says Moreira, who graduated from NC State with a film studies degree in 2011. “I had this image of a boy trying to climb up to the sky.”
That nugget turned into the new short film, Harbinger, that Moreira directed and co-wrote with Martin. The independent movie will premiere at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on Centennial Campus Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
The film centers around a relationships between a mother and her young son Harold, whose imagination helps him deal with the changing complexities of his reality. “We had always seen it as a fantasy based in reality,” Moreira says. “The fantasy hides the more harsh realities of the world. Harold is at a transition. He is discovering things from his past. So the fantasy is an escape, but it is a shield, too.”
Moreira and Martin, who graduated from NC State in 1999 with a textile engineering degree, learned their own realities could be harsh, as well, in the three years it’s taken to get the film out. They launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for the production costs, and they didn’t reach their goal. And they didn’t have the luxury of focusing solely on their movie.
“There was a tremendous amount of challenges,” Martin says. “This was going to be a year or two of our lives. Even though Drawbridge was encouraging us, we still had a full slate of work from our day jobs.”
But the fact they were able to pull it off with the help of many volunteers was instrumental in accomplishing one of their main goals. They felt they could show that while movies like Iron Man 3, some of which was shot in Cary, N.C., garner a lot of attention for the film industry in North Carolina, there is a strong independent movement afoot in the state that is already producing quality work.
From left to right, Kieran Moreira, Andrew Martin and Paul Frateschi.
“Something we always wanted to do was to showcase the talents here at home,” says Paul Frateschi, the film’s director of photography and 2009 NC State graduate. “A lot of those big films come in and bring in a DP from New York or out of state. We wanted to show what quality work we’re doing here locally. It was freelance crew people. It was the actors. We wanted to tell a North Carolina story with a North Carolina crew and cast.”
And that goal is tied to another one Martin sees as directly tied to his Wolfpack roots.
“Ultimately, so much of the reason we did this was to build the community,” he says. “We would love to build the film department and communication department at NC State so more film can come out of there.”
Emerson Fullwood says that he has been part of two revolutions in his lifetime.
The first came in 1966, when Fullwood entered NC State as one of the first African-American men to attend the recently integrated university. The second came years later but was also transformative.
“It was a great time to be at NC State because we had a chance to lend our voices to civil rights, but also to all of the other changes that were happening, such as the Vietnam War, ending apartheid in South Africa and the fight for individual freedoms for everyone,” the Wilmington native says.
Fullwood was recently honored for his contributions to civil rights by the Countywide CDC Committee on the Humanities and the Arts, a nonprofit organization that sponsored an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
He remembers joining friends to picket pizza parlors and taverns along Hillsborough Street for the right to have a meal. They succeeded. But what Fullwood is quick to emphasize is the way that NC State supported integration and fulfilled his goal to attend one of “the best universities” that he could find.
“I was looking for an exceptional education, which of course I did get at the university,” says Fullwood, who graduated in 1970 with an economics degree from the Poole College of Management. “On the academic side, it was an incredible experience, and it was so incredible because outside of the classroom was so extraordinary during the 1960s.”
After graduating, Fullwood went on to receive an MBA from Columbia University and then landed the job where he spent his entire career – at Xerox, the Fortune 500 corporation that has been providing printers and other document management tools to businesses worldwide for more than 100 years.
He started in sales and quickly moved into the executive ranks, eventually working in offices in Europe, Asia and Latin America. When he retired in 2008, Fullwood was executive chief staff of developing markets operations for the company.
He says being at Xerox allowed him to witness the second revolution – the rapid growth of modern technology and its effect on every aspect of society today.
“I got to be a big, big part of a global, iconic company that literally changed the way business was done around the world,” said Fullwood. “When I was in school, we could not have had a discussion on mobile devices. We did not have computers and iPads in front of us. I was able to be a huge part of a place that revolutionized communications and brought technology to the forefront.”
Growing up in Nebraska, Kelley Dennings loved the outdoors, was reading Greenpeace magazine in the sixth grade and started her high school’s first environmental club. Still, the self-professed tree-hugger says she “didn’t know a lick about trees.”
But today, she can tell her longleaf pine from her oak – and she’s teaching others, too. Dennings is director of behavior change strategies at the American Forest Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helps woodland owners learn how to take better care of their forestlands.
It’s an important step in environmental protection and sustainability. More than one-third of America’s forests are privately owned, but Dennings says many landowners don’t realize that their property needs maintenance to stay healthy.
It’s not always easy to convince them, either. Most of the targeted audience are 60 to 80-year-olds who inherited their woodlands from family members. Some of them are distrustful of the unknown and confused by the various entities and options that are available to them.
“We have worked really hard to create the right message, in the right tone,” said Dennings, who graduated from NC State in 1998 with a degree in natural resources. “Somebody might not want to manage for timber, but they might want to manage for wildlife and don’t necessarily understand that those two can be complementary.”
Together with state forest services and other agencies nationwide, Dennings coordinates campaigns that will encourage forest owners to become engaged in state-specific projects to protect their land. In New England, that means explaining about the benefits of conservation easements. In the West, the priority is encouraging forest thinning to prevent catastrophic wildfires.
Identifying the landowner is a tedious process that comes from poring over tax rolls and weeding out property owners who aren’t viable prospects, such as farmers. Then the AAF turns to a direct mail campaign, sending multiple letters to woodland owners to encourage them to learn more about what they can do to protect their forests. Those that reply can get a free handbook with information about what can be done or request that a forester come to walk the land and offer suggestions.
Dennings says the good news is that woodland owners usually can pick what interests them, such as attracting wildlife to their land, hunting, species restoration, conservation or timber production.
But those same landowners may not reap the benefits of the efforts they make for decades, which makes engagement a harder sell.
“We’re asking people to do things they wouldn’t necessarily think of, so it’s out of their comfort zone,” said Dennings. “We have to engage with these landowners for years and years and years to get to our desired outcome.”
Daryl Liles and his brother, Derek, have always done everything together. They were born together, as twins, so that’s only natural.
Derek Liles paints one end zone of Carter-Finley Stadium. Photo by Ted Richardson.
They grew up rooting for the Wolfpack together with their parents. They came to NC State and graduated from the Agricultural Institute in 1998 together.
And now they work to protect the sacred grounds of NC State athletics for coaches, players and fans. Daryl is the turf supervisor for athletics grounds, and Derek is facilities supervisor.
This fall will be their 15th full season working athletic events, from double-headers at Doak Field to game-day Saturdays at Carter-Finley Stadium.”With the pressure that comes with college athletics, it puts pressure on coaches to win,” Derek says of his job. “That puts pressure on everybody else. We work a lot of hours. You like to see a season come in, but you like to see them end, too.”
Daryl Liles raises a net for an extra point attempt at Carter-Finley Stadium. Photo by Ted Richardson.
The twins told themselves when they were at the Agricultural Institute that they would graduate and own their own landscaping business. “We cut grass all of our lives and grew up on a farm in Knightdale,” Daryl says. But they both got an internship with the athletics facilities division on campus that presented them with options, one of which stood out.
“In turf grass, you’re either on the golf course, athletic fields, landscaping or sales. [But with athletic fields] you get satisfaction of how your field looks,” Daryl says. “And you’re getting paid to watch Division I athletics. But at the same time, you’re here if something goes wrong to deal with it.”
That something could be an assortment of trouble. It might be an airplane liquor bottle shoved in a urinal during a game. It might be managing an array of contests across campus on a Saturday afternoon. It might be a breaker going out on a scoreboard. Or it might mean having to delay painting the football field for a Saturday game all week because of a tropical storm, as was the case when the University to South Carolina came to town one year.
“Friday morning, there was no paint on the field,” Daryl says. “We came in at 4 o’clock that morning, painted throughout the day and finished at seven that night.”
Of course, as Derek points out, sometimes something going wrong could bode well for NC State fans. “Early on, we dealt with tearing down goal posts,” he says. “It seems like every week, we’d beat Florida State or East Carolina, and we’d scramble to get a new set of goal posts up.”
The Liles brothers love being near college athletics every day on the job, even if it does mean they can’t use their two season tickets to football games (they give them to their parents). But they do get to enjoy their season tickets to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The ice is the one place where they can just be fans.
NC State magazine was granted full access in fall of 2013 to see all the behind-the-scenes work that goes in to putting on a game at Carter-Finley on Saturdays. We included a feature about what we saw in the summer issue, which should be in mailboxes very soon. We also produced a video to show how the stadium comes alive.