Alumni News Category
Given her name, it’s fitting that Snow Roberts found the inspiration to pursue adventure travel on trip in the scenic landscape of Alaska.
It was 2000 and she had just finished her master’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State. The sense of accomplishment she felt from completing her graduate studies blended with the phenomenal backdrop of Prince William Sound to give her a feeling she longed to experience outside of a crammed office and 9-to-5 life. She kayaked for the first time. She battled the chill of the sound’s icy waters.
And Roberts, who now organizes trips for her Blue Highway Adventures, walked away changed.
“It was a very natural experience that fueled me for other trips,” she says. “I want to make every trip like that one. Just very unique.”
Roberts says she was also inspired to pursue a profession in adventure travel from the time in her youth she spent going to camps and forming bonds in small groups. She went to camps around North Carolina and even went on a three-week camping trip to California.
“I was just immersed in that experience where you meet an entire new group of people in a cabin,” she says. “You can forge great relationships that way. …I took this group of friendships that were formed through those experiences, and they stood the test of time.”
Snow Roberts at Bryce Canyon, Utah.
After graduate school at NC State, she worked for Broadreach, a company that sends kids on educational adventures around the world, for roughly 11 years. Then in 2013 she began Blue Highway Adventures on her own.
She’s now gearing up for a summer of trips that will send participants to exotic locales and incorporate crossfit training. But she’s finding that the business side of things offers her a new education and that doing her own marketing, web design and legal paperwork is far away from a bike ride through Holland or hike in Peru.
“There’s whole side of things not necessarily in my wheelhouse, and I’m having so much fun learning about it,” says Roberts, who explains the genesis of her first name is actually a family hand-me-down and a marketing coup. “It’s so unique. It serves me great in the travel adventure industry.”
Having lived in Traverse City, Michigan, for 22 years, John Flesher is accustomed to snow and cold weather by now.
But even he couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe at what Mother Nature did this winter — almost completely covering the Great Lakes with ice. Flesher, a correspondent for The Associated Press, wrote an article last month about ice covering nearly 90 percent of the Great Lakes, the first time that has happened since 1994.
John Flesher on frozen Lake Michigan
“It’s unusual for the entire surface area of the lakes to freeze over,” says Flesher, a 1980 NC State graduate who was editor of the Technician. “That just doesn’t happen. In order to have significant parts of the lake freeze over, it has to be really cold for a good period of time.”
And that’s what happened this winter, which has seen the Midwest and other sections of the country repeatedly get blasted with snow, ice and freezing temperatures.
For people who live and work around the Great Lakes, such drastic winter weather has created hardships and opportunities. In his article for The Associated Press, Flesher wrote about thousands of people taking advantage of Lake Superior being frozen over to explore caves with “dazzling ice formations.” But he also wrote about the challenges the ice presented for the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw trying to clear paths on Lake Huron for vessels carrying essential cargo such as heating oil. The local newspaper in Traverse City recently had a photo on the front page, Flesher says, of joggers running eight miles across the frozen Traverse Bay.
“It’s just an illustration that nature is very powerful,” he says. “It has a real effect on the economy and our way of life. When these extremes come along, people simply have to cope with it.”
The Winter Olympics wrap up in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, but not before some athletes get their last chance to capture a gold medal for another four years. Some of the most popular Olympians left competing are members of the four-man bobsled teams.
Hans DeBot and one of his Olympic sleds in his DeBotech shop. Photo courtesy of DeBotech.
And if you tune in to watch the bobsledding event on Saturday and Sunday, you will see just how much red and white compliment the blue of the American bobsled and skeleton teams. Hans DeBot graduated from NC State in 1993 with a mechanical engineering degree, DeBotech, his carbon fiber and composite parts company in Mooresville, N.C., built the Night Train 2, the bobsled that is trying to defend the gold medal the four-man team won in Vancouver four years ago.
DeBot says this may be his most rewarding project in a career that has included work in aerospace and military technology, NASCAR and the Aviation Racing Series. “It’s hard not to pay notice to the Olympics,” he says. “We’re especially making a difference. But was it a challenge. Sure, it was very risky.”
The risk DeBot refers to came in 2002 when he says an Olympic bobsledding hopeful named Bruce Rosselli came to him wanting DeBot to build a bobsled. “I didn’t know anything about the sport,” DeBot says, adding that he likes to solve any problem given to him. ” I didn’t know if he was a good driver. He didn’t have any money to do it. But I built that bobsled.”
DeBot’s sled showed up at the 2002 Olympics as a lighter ride made with carbon fiber instead of the usual heavier laminated glass and Kevlar. The U.S. team took home the silver and bronze medals that year in Salt Lake City.
Photo courtesy of DeBotech.
His Olympic involvement has led DeBot to partner on projects with former NASCAR driver-turned-bobsled-maker Geoff Bodine and BMW. DeBotech was brought in recently to help build the sleds used for the skeleton events, where athletes ride headfirst at speeds of 80 miles per hour on a sled that loosely resembles one the average Joe might go down on in the snow, and to help build the two-man bobsled.
DeBot’s work has made it to the podium in Sochi. The women’s skeleton team captured a silver, with the men’s team getting a bronze. The two-man men’s bobsled team won a bronze, the first medal won by Americans in the event in 62 years, and the two-man bobsled women’s team took home a silver and a bronze.
This weekend the four-man bobsled team will try to once again capture gold.
While many viewers choose to watch the tape-delayed results on NBC in prime time, DeBot says he and the 20 employees in his shop can’t wait for that and instead watch the events live in their shop.
“I pull it up on the T.V. in the shop so the employees can enjoy,” he says. “They get to sit back and say, ‘We’re sitting and watching our stuff come to life on television.’”
NC State’s Kat Robichaud has been keeping busy since she left NBC’s “The Voice” last year, ending the season as one of the top 10 performers. The College of Design graduate is on her way to making her debut album, which she describes on her Kickstarter site as a “theatrical rock explosion.”
Kat Robichaud at Manifold Studios
Robichaud launched the Kickstarter effort on Feb. 3 with a goal of $20,000—and reached it in just three days. She’s now raised over $30,000 from over 600 donors, and will be recording the album at Manifold Studios in Pittsboro, N.C. where she’ll be assisted by Manifold’s chief engineer, NC State graduate Ian Schreier). She will continue soliciting backers through March 5.
She’s been putting together a core band (keyboard, drummer, bass, guitar) and hopes to include trumpet, string quartets and possibly guest artists as well with songs about love, heartbreak and even “Doctor Who” (Robichaud is a big fan). The album will be recorded this spring with a September release date.
Robichaud will be talking about her experience on “The Voice” and how her design education at NC State influenced her career on Friday, Feb. 28, at an appearance hosted by the College of Design. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at Burns Auditorium in Kamphoefner Hall. It’s free, but space is limited so registration is required. Expect a few songs from Robichaud as well.
Here’s one way the 2006 graduate’s design background comes through: Robichaud created a portrait of Doctor Who using individually placed roses, and backers who pledge $75 toward her album can get a limited-edition print.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
Imagine a ballerina, clad in a white leotard and tutu, gracing the stage of the Durham Performing Arts Center. Now imagine that same ballerina dancing around in the streets of downtown Raleigh. Tim Lytvinenko captured those images and many more in his 15th Anniversary Book for the Carolina Ballet.
Lytvinenko has had a passion for photography since he was a child. He worked as a photo editor for the Technician while he studied computer science at NC State and had a few internships at newspapers after college. He graduated in 2006 with an engineering degree.
“I knew that’s what I was going to pursue for a while,” Lytvinenko says.
One First Friday, Lytvinenko happened to meet some of the dancers from the Carolina Ballet running around downtown Raleigh doing a photo shoot. The dancers wanted to bring a unique marketing strategy to the Ballet, so Lytvinenko thought that taking pictures in urban spaces instead of on stage was one way to do it.
“We tried to go around to familiar places in Raleigh,” Lytvinenko says. “Since they weren’t on stage, it was a lot easier for people to connect with them. They weren’t these icons. They were just normal people.”
Lytvinenko’s 15th Anniversary Book contains much more than just images of ballerinas frolicking through the busy streets of Raleigh. The book features shots of the ballerinas on stage, but also contains glimpses into their lives behind the curtain.
“Every night when I’m shooting backstage, it’s this kind of push-pull because I’m trying to get closer to shoot, but also leave them enough room to get ready for their performance,” Lytvinenko says.
During the 15th season, Lytvinenko took more than 100,000 photos over the course of about 60 shows. He narrowed them down to less than 200 for the book. Lytvinenko’s friend from NC State, Ben McNeely, helped him with the written content and editing of the 15th Anniversary Book.
“I couldn’t have done it without him,” Lytvinenko says.
McNeely, a 2005 NC State grad who works as a producer for News 14 Carolina, and Lytvinenko worked together at Technician and have been close friends ever since. Lytvinenko says they have worked together on projects before and even have some projects in the works this year.
“There aren’t too many people from college that I keep up with like him,” Lytvinenko says.
Lytvinenko (left, in a self portrait) keeps up with a few other friends from his time at Technician, including Ray Black, who helped with the copy editing of the 15th Anniversary Book. Lytvinenko says he still does a lot of photography work with Black as well.
“They aren’t just people from Technician anymore,” Lytvinenko says. “They’re people from my life.”
Lytvinenko plans to continue working with his friends McNeely and Black on future projects as well as with some of the dancers from the Carolina Ballet. He currently shoots for Walter Magazine, and has a residency at Chuck’s in downtown Raleigh, where some of his work is displayed year-round.
Football and Christmas cards aren’t the only Wolfpack traditions Worth Williams shares with his family. He even incorporated NC State into his marriage proposal.
Williams met his fiancé, Haley Hendrix, in 2010 through mutual friends. They were both enthusiastic about sports and attended most football and basketball games together.
Williams’ interest in NC State football came from members of his family. His parents, Tod and Donna Williams, both attended NC State, as did his grandfather and uncles. During football season, his family has season tickets and attends every home game.
“My family’s lives revolve around football season,” Williams says.
Hendrix’s parents, Doug and Carole Hendrix, also support NC State football, although they do not go to every game. They went to their first Wolfpack football game for parents weekend, and they now go to at least one game a season.
The first time Williams’ parents met Hendrix’s parents was at a game against UNC in 2011. “Even though my dad is a Carolina fan, he was wearing all red the day they met,” Hendrix says.
Their parents have been close ever since, and Williams’ invited Hendrix’s parents to his graduation in December 2013. (Hendrix graduated in May 2013 with a master’s degree in elementary education – she now teaches first grade in Pitt County.) After the ceremony, Williams’ mother suggested taking photos at the Bell Tower before going out to dinner.
“He asked me to take some pictures with him, too,” Hendrix says. “I said ‘Hey, let’s do the Wolfpack hand thing’ and then he unzipped his gown and pulled out a box from his pocket.”
All of their immediate family, including Williams’ sister, Ellen, parents and grandparents watched the scene unfold.
“I was so surprised. I asked if he was serious,” Hendrix says. “And then I said, ‘Yes, of course!’”
The family’s dedication to football played a big role in choosing a date for the wedding. “Since the football schedule was released, we finally got to pick a date. There’s no game on October 25, so we’re getting married that day,” Hendrix says.
Besides choosing a date, Hendrix and Williams, who works for his family’s Worthington Farms, want to include a few other Wolfpack-related traditions in their wedding plans.
“We want to have a Wolfpack themed groom’s cake for the rehearsal dinner,” Hendrix says. “And obviously the Fight Song will be played at some point.”
Hendrix is also considering having red and white pom poms instead of sparklers at the wedding. The couple hopes to come up with even more Wolfpack-related things to include in their ceremony and reception.
That shouldn’t be hard considering Williams’ family has so many Wolfpack-oriented traditions already. Most gifts in his family are Wolfpack themed, as well as their Christmas ornaments and even their family photos for Christmas cards.
“We will be Wolfpack fans forever, “ Hendrix says. “And we will carry on the traditions if we start a family some day.”
Tyrone Davis describes himself as a low-key guy, someone who is not easily excited.
But even Davis had to admit to getting a little fired up when his telephone rang on a recent Friday. It was the White House calling, letting Davis know that he was being invited to sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box for President Obama’s State of the Union speech.
“I was thinking, wow, this is crazy,” Davis says. “My response was, ‘Of course I can make it.’”
So a few days later, Davis enjoyed a whirlwind day in Washington, D.C., culminating with the State of the Union speech in the U.S. House chamber.
Davis is now in law school at Elon University, but his invitation to Washington was the result of his interest in the environment that was sparked when he earned a bachelor’s degree (in 2007) and master’s degree in public administration (in 2009) at NC State. “I tried to focus on policy, and focus my studies on environmental and energy issues,” Davis says.
Davis, who grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C., went to work as an intern with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) after he finished graduate school at NC State. As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, Davis helped Elizabeth City State University find ways to become more energy efficient. The university then hired Davis on a temporary basis as a sustainability coordinator. He ended up showing the school how to save more than $31,000 a year.
“One thing that was easier than I expected was trying to change the culture,” Davis says. “It just came from me walking around the campus to see how things operated. I would walk around and talk to people. It kind of got them thinking.”
It was his work at Elizabeth City State University that prompted officials at the EDF to give Davis’ name to the White House as a possible guest at the State of the Union address. Davis was in Hong Kong as part of a study abroad program at Elon’s law school when he first heard from someone at the EDF that his name had been given to the White House.
“I just thought they would do some story on me or that my name might be mentioned in the speech,” says Davis, who hopes to work in some area of environmental law after he graduates from law school in May.
Davis meets with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
But a couple of weeks later, Davis found himself in Washington, D.C. His day included a tour of the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, where he met several top officials, and then a tour of the White House. That was followed by a reception in the East Room and a chance to have his photo taken with the first lady. “It was just a great experience,” Davis says.
One of the highlights of his White House visit was seeing various paintings of past presidents and first ladies. That may seem surprising, given that Davis is legally blind and he couldn’t see the paintings unless he was standing next to them. “I learned a little bit of the history behind some of those paintings,” he says.
Davis’ vision also limited what he could see at the State of the Union. He could figure out where President Obama was standing, but could not make out the president himself. At one point, Davis heard applause for someone walking behind him and has to ask someone seated near him who the applause was for. It was a soldier who was making his way to his seat.
“That’s the sort of thing I have to deal with on a daily basis,” Davis says. “I have to concentrate and listen a little bit harder.”
Davis had a brief opportunity to get a photo with the president after the speech, and then enjoyed talking with one of Michelle Obama’s other guests – a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing – when they both got back to the hotel that evening.
“It really did happen fast,” Davis says of his day in Washington. “I tried to take in as much as I could. The president and first lady were very warm and sincere people. The whole experience seemed very unreal.”
The winter issue of NC State magazine includes a story about photographs that Michael Ligett, a part-time lecturer in the College of Engineering, has taken of the Free Expression Tunnel. The story includes three photographs of a wedding proposal that took place at the wall outside the tunnel on Labor Day last year. Here is the story behind those photos.
Jimmy Nguyen had no problem figuring out where he wanted to propose to Sonya Patel. Making it work, though, was a tad more complicated.
Nguyen and Patel met in 2005 as students at NC State — they were both members of a dance team on campus — and they started dating soon afterward. They continued to see each other after they graduated and lived in different cities.
So when Nguyen was ready to propose last year, he knew the perfect spot to pop the question.
“Sonya was born and raised in Cary,” Nguyen says. “Her family had season tickets to NC State football — she was a Wolfpacker through and through. During our relationship, she would say, ‘I love NC State. I’m so glad I met you here. Everything has worked out.’”
So Nguyen decided to propose at the Free Expression Tunnel. Nguyen initially thought about copying the style of the graffiti artists who frequently paint on the wall outside the tunnel. “I tried to do it myself, but spray painting was not my thing,” he says. So he tried to find one of the graffiti artists, hoping they would accept a commission to paint his proposal on the wall. That didn’t work, either. “They were hard to find and wanted to remain anonymous,” he says.
With painting no longer an option, Nguyen thought about pasting large photos of he and Patel on the wall. But he worried that NC State might have rules against pasting items on the wall and that they would be too easy for others to take down before he could get Patel to the wall.
Then, after brainstorming with a cousin, Nguyen figured out his plan. He would paint the wall white, frame the black-and-white photos in red, wooden frames and stick the frames to the white-washed wall. Then he would make another red frame for he and Patel to stand in when he popped the question. “I wanted to do it in NC State colors – red, white and black,” he says. “It all made sense, kind of tied it together.”
Making his idea a reality was no small task. He wanted to propose on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, so he blocked out the entire weekend to buy the wood, cut it to make the frames and stain it red. Then Patel called, telling him that her father had tickets for the NC State football game that Saturday. Nguyen tried to beg off, offering the “lame” excuse that he needed to do yard work. But he went to the game, thinking the whole time about how much work he still had to do before Sunday afternoon.
“I stayed up 72 hours straight working on this,” he says.
Nguyen enlisted some cousins and friends to paint the wall white on Sunday morning, a job that took about an hour. But when they started trying to attach the frames to the wall, the frames kept pulling off the paint and crashing to the ground. It was 2:30 in the afternoon by then, and Nguyen had told Patel he would pick her up at 5 p.m. for dinner that night.
“So I’m freaking out,” Nguyen says. “What am I going to do? Then we get some twine and tied the photos to bricks we had found and strung it over the wall. It worked – it had movement, it was kind of crooked, it was nice.”
Nguyen only had a couple of hours left to get home, get cleaned up and pick up Patel for dinner. He had come up with a plausible reason to give Patel for stopping by campus on the way to dinner, but he was running out of time. And then he noticed the storm clouds moving in. He picked up Patel, and high-tailed it for the Free Expression Tunnel.
“We headed to campus, and I’m speeding,” he says. “She tells me to stop speeding, but the clouds were moving in pretty quickly. That’s the reason I was speeding. I’ve never seen clouds move so fast in my life.”
Nguyen and Patel made it to the wall in time. She says she was initially so focused on the tunnel itself that she didn’t notice what was on the wall. “I just remember thinking, “I haven’t been here in so long – and I miss it,” she says.
Patel’s initial reaction to seeing her photos on the wall was confusion. What are these red frames? Why are our pictures on the wall? Then it hit her.
“Once she realized, the waterworks turned on and they didn’t stop,” Nguyen says. “She completely knows what’s happening at that point.”
Or, as Patel says, “Jimmy started talking, saying he wanted to surprise me and show our story together for the past several years up on the wall. And I knew. And, yes, the waterworks came full speed! I could hardly talk.”
So Nguyen took Patel by the hand and led her to the large frame. He got down on one knee, pulled out the ring and popped the question. “For a split second she was speechless, which kind of worried me,” Nguyen says. “She eventually said ‘Yes.’ That’s how we got engaged.”
Nguyen and Patel hope to get married this summer. They are both glad that the Free Expression Tunnel was where they agreed to spend the rest of their lives together.
“Jimmy putting up our story on the wall was poetic and very ‘us,’” Patel says. “Proposing there was our next chapter. I just love that place, with all its good, bad and in between. Even when there was controversy surrounding tags in the tunnel, it is always a conversation starter and I love that.”
Nguyen says the tunnel is a “huge part” of NC State. “It shows that the university is open to having any and every conversation,” he says. “It’s a really good space.”
Wesley Osborne Doggett, who passed away in December following a lengthy career as a physics professor at NC State, clearly did not believe in leaving stones unturned.
As a student at North Carolina State College, Doggett finished at the top of his class when he graduated in 1952 with two degrees — one in nuclear engineering and another in electrical engineering.
As if that was not enough, Doggett invented a machine that dramatically reduced the time it would take to make certain atomic calculations — from six hours to four minutes. He was also the business manager for the campus humor magazine, chairman of the nuclear engineering department honor committee, vice president and president of the Order of Thirty and Three and was the first NC State undergrad to become an associate member of Sigma Xi. He was even named to the all-campus intramural horseshoe team. Not surprisingly, he was elected permanent president of the Class of 1952.
Doggett went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics and UC-Berkeley – in three-and-a-half years – before returning to NC State as a physics professor in 1958. And, again, Doggett’s approach was to cover every base.
He was a member of the NC State Academy of Outstanding Teachers, and served as assistant dean of the new School of Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics from 1964-68. At one point, Doggett taught every course offered by the Department of Physics. Even after his retirement in 1993, Doggett continued to work with the physics department and served as associate editor of the Cornelius Lanczos Collected Published Papers with Commentaries.
Since 2011, the physics department has honored Doggett by awarding its outstanding graduating senior with the Wesley Doggett Award. Not surprisingly, Doggett received the outstanding student award when he graduated in 1952.
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.”