Alumni Spotlight Category
When Jeb Bishop was studying philosophy at NC State in the 1980s, he traded in his classical trombone training for the freedom of punk on the Raleigh music scene. He played in a couple bands, like Angels of Epistemology, which is remembered for its eclectic and outside-the-box approaches to music. He says that time set the stage for him to take his trombone to Chicago in the 1990s and make a name for himself on the Windy City’s improvised music scene.
We profiled Bishop in the spring issue of NC State magazine. But his musical knowledge is so vast that we conducted a subsequent email interview with him to discuss some recordings that have helped shape him as a musician.
What are some of the recordings that you’ve appeared on that stick out to you? These are in a different category for me because (a) I can’t listen to them in the same way I listen to other music, and (b) I don’t, in fact, spend much time listening to recordings I’m on. However, some recent representative ones I’m willing to mention include:
–Recordings on the Driff Records label. You can click through there to stream some tracks:
* The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy, vols. 1 and 2
* Jorrit Dijkstra / Jeb Bishop: 1000 Words
What are some records that have been influential for you? Here are some recordings I keep coming back to. The idea is that these are ones that keep drawing me back — I have a lot of recordings I enjoy, but these are some that have evolved into a place of central importance for me.
* Thelonious Monk, Alone in San Francisco. Just Monk and the piano. I keep finding new things in here; my current favorite track is “Bluehawk.” I can’t figure out how he does it.
* Bill Evans, The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961. The art of trio interaction at its highest level. A beautiful whole that rewards much repeated listening. I’m especially taken with Scott LaFaro’s solos here, but it feels a little unfair to single any one thing out.
* Miles Davis, The Cellar Door Sessions 1970. Great music brought to you by a giant corporation, go figure. Completely burning and intense and my personal favorite Keith Jarrett recording.
* Complete Webern / Pierre Boulez, conductor: One of the most important 20th-century composers for me.
* FMP In Retrospect box set. Essential documentation of the development of improvised music in Europe, a very important area of music for me. Still digging into these; everything here is great so far.
Of course I could go on quite a bit about European improvised music. Maybe I should just say that I got my first record by Derek Bailey and Evan Parker at the Record Hole on Hillsborough Street in 1983.
How about recent pop records or rock bands you find yourself listening to? Here I am really kind of an old fogey. A lot of rock music has been important to me (Stooges, Velvet Underground, Minutemen, Sonic Youth), but I don’t seem to pay as much attention to new bands these days, and for whatever reason when I do hear them, they often don’t interest me too much. Then there’s stuff like Katy Perry and so on, which I have nothing against and might even play on my trombone for my 5-year-old nephew, Noah, who loves Katy Perry.
A rock record I love is Gang of Four’s Entertainment! I think I first heard a track from it on WKNC in the early ’80s. It still bites like an animal with a mouth full of sharp teeth. (There’s a reason I’m not a music writer.)
Heidi Klum abandoned her concerns with material or fabric on Thursday’s episode of Project Runway and instead turned to the all important accessory as the basis for the show’s second design challenge. And it was not just any accessory, but one that’s perhaps the most coveted of any.
Justin LeBlanc designs a black gown to compliment his model’s diamonds (Photo courtesy of Barbara Nitke, Project Runway).
“They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” Klum said, explaining the challenge in which the 15 remaining contestants had to design an evening-wear dress to highlight diamonds on a model. “Let’s see if they are designers’, too.”
It turns out Justin LeBlanc, an NC State alum who teaches at the College of Design, had no problem getting chummy with diamonds. For the second straight week, he survived the competition on the Lifetime reality show that tests designers skills in a set of challenges.
Each contestant had 45 minutes to shop for material then retreated to the design studio to get to work. It was there that Tim Gunn, a fashion consultant on the show who serves as the designers’ surrogate mentor, advised LeBlanc to scale back his design of a black evening gown.
But the Wolfpacker stood his ground. “I’m aiming to go big,” LeBlanc said. “I’m going with my gut.”
It was a gamble that paid off as LeBlanc made it through to next week’s competition — a feat in and of itself given the squabbling by fellow contestant Sandro Masmanidi that clearly disturbed LeBlanc as he tried to sew his dress.
LeBlanc said he heard another designer’s exclamation at his dress as his model came down the runway, a sure sign that what he had done was “a showstopper.”
Justin LeBlanc survived the opening round of Project Runway last night and gave viewers a glimpse of his personality in his television debut. When another contestant asked if it was best to look directly at LeBlanc, who is deaf, when speaking to him, LeBlanc responded, “Just be yourself, and if I don’t understand you I’ll let you know.”
Justin LeBlanc at work during the first episode of Project Runway (Photos courtesy of Barbara Nitke, Project Runway)
LeBlanc, an NC State alum who teaches at the College of Design, is one of 16 contestants (now 15) competing for the top spot in the Lifetime reality show that pits up-and-coming designers against one another as by requiring them to create garments from unusual materials under deadline pressure.
Last night that unusual material was a parachute. The show focused on some colorful contestants — notably a designer who was so taken with the concept of sustainability that he would not allow hair stylists to plug in a curling iron — but LeBlanc made a few memorable appearances. Introducing himself to the audience, he gave a shout-out to NC State, making the wolf sign and saying “Go Pack!”
When the model wearing LeBlanc’s design came down the runway in a hot pink dress that featured black-and-white insets along the neckline and a black waistband, he said, “I’ve got goose bumps.”
LeBlanc also showed viewers his sense of humor: At one point he said that if anyone on the show gets too annoying, he’ll turn his hearing aid off.
We’ve got goose bumps, too, pulling for LeBlanc to make it to the top. The next episode airs at 9 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 25. We’ll keep you posted.
– Sylvia Adcock ’81
Gus Gusler’s time as student body president in 1971-72 did not come without its unrest. First there were numbers of students protesting the Vietnam War in the streets and at the Capitol building. And then there were his fiery exchanges with Chancellor John T. Caldwell.
Gusler remembered how in his first meeting with the chancellor, Caldwell had intended to intimidate him with his stature by having the president-elect sit next to him. But Gusler had been tipped off and chose to sit at the other end of the table, a symbolic move foreshadowing how the two would face off in the ensuing year.
But Gusler, who is a Raleigh attorney and owner of Hillsborough Street’s Players’ Retreat, pointed out in an interview for the Student Leadership Initiative, NCSU Libraries’ showcase of former student leaders at NC State and their recorded reflections of their time at the university, that there was always behind-the-scenes mentoring going on.
“Chancellor Caldwell, had the biggest impact on me of anybody,” Gusler said. “I worshiped the ground the man walked on. He was an amazing person, probably one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
“…We were constantly at each others’ throats publicly in meetings and stuff, completely disagreeing on an awful lot of stuff, and it was very high energy disagreement, and then that night I’d go have dinner with him at his house.”
In Gusler’s three interviews featured in the Student Leadership Initiative, he also talked about how he and Caldwell would frequently be at odds over the pace of advancements in the African-American community and education.
“He just couldn’t understand why I would get so angry about that, that we were moving in the right direction, but a little too slow for me,” Gusler said. Gusler discussed how he was sensitive to racial and socioeconomic issues, having grown up on the poor side of the tracks in a segregated Burlington, N.C.
And Gusler described his love of the Players’ Retreat, one of Raleigh’s most famous bars and restaurants, which he bought in 2005. “When I got here in ’67 it was the first place I went and had a beer… It’s always been a very eclectic place,” he said, “where you’ll walk in and there’ll be a plumber sitting there drinking a PBR on Friday afternoon and at the next table, the governor’s sitting there or the mayor, dressed up, eating an early dinner to go to the symphony, and everybody gets along.”
Caroline Delaney says she’s easy to please when it comes to dipping into the spirits. She’ll try anything, she says.
But lately she’s had a favorite drink of choice — her own.
Delaney, who graduated from NC State in 2008 with an accounting degree, and her husband own Muddy River Distillery, in Belmont, N.C., and produce Carolina Rum. The couple uses a still that her husband, a former contractor, built. They do everything from making the rum to bottling the rum and attaching the labels to the bottles.
Delaney says the idea came to her husband a couple of years back when he was on the road a lot for his contracting job. He wanted something that would allow him to be home more and just happened to come across an in-flight magazine that talked about the craft distilleries that were making a mark.
The couple worked on making Muddy River for a year while they both held down full-time jobs. But recently, both left those jobs to concentrate solely on the distillery.
“It was pretty crazy,” Delaney says. “We did it as a hobby on weekends. It reached a point where we had to do it full time or just let it go. We weren’t having any time for ourselves.”
So they both committed. And the gamble is paying off. So far, Carolina Rum is in more than 275 ABC stores around the state. It’s also a staple in some bars around Charlotte, which is close to Muddy River’s headquarters in an old textile mill sitting nicely on the banks of the Catawba River, for which the company is named, in Gaston County. And Muddy River’s work space is expanding from 500 square feet to a 6,000 square-foot space on the other side of the mill.
Delaney says that Carolina Rum won its first award in December at a competition in Greensboro, and that customers compliment its distinct taste.
“They say it’s really smooth and has a different aftertaste than most rum,” she says.
The Mecklenburg County Alumni Network will tour Muddy River Distillery Tuesday, May 28. If you would like more details on the event, check out the event’s page on the Alumni Association’s website.
NC State University, the Wolfpack Club and the Alumni Association will recognize some of NC State’s greatest stars tonight at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., honoring 18 alumni and friends of the university for their professional and personal accomplishments and their continuing support of NC State, the Wolfpack Club and the Alumni Association.
The honorees at the 9th Annual NC State Evening of Stars are:
COLLEGE DISTINGUISHED AWARD RECIPIENTS
Tommy Bunn ’66, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Bunn, president of the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative, has spent more than 45 years in the tobacco industry. He got his start growing tobacco on his family farm, then went on to work for 21 years as executive vice president of the Leaf Tobacco Exporters Association and the Tobacco Association of the United States. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the N.C. Department of Agriculture, and was a charter member and chairman of the Golden Leaf Foundation Board of Directors.
Charlie Stuber ’65 PhD, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: For more than 35 years, Stuber held a joint appointment as a genetics professor at NC State and a research geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Stuber then came out of retirement to return to NC State in 2006 to develop and direct the Center for Plant Breeding and Applied Plant Genomics. The USDA Agricultural Research Service named him the Outstanding Scientist of the Year in 1989 and inducted Stuber into their Science Hall of Fame in 1989.
Steven Schuster ’73, College of Design: Schuster is the founding principal of Clearscapes, a full-service architectural design firm in Raleigh. Under Schuster’s leadership, Clearscapes has been recognized with more than 75 design awards and worked on such notable projects as the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, the Haw River Ball Room, the Raleigh Convention Center and the Contemporary Art Museum. Schuster is also a national leader in the historic preservation community. He serves on the Board of Visitors at NC State.
Robert Bridges ’70 MED, College of Education: Bridges taught sixth grade and then high school in Wake County before becoming principal at Crosby-Garfield Elementary School. He then went on to work in Wake County’s central office as a director, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent before becoming the superintendent in 1984. After five years leading the state’s second largest public school system, Bridges went on to become provost at St. Augustine College in Raleigh, and then worked as an education and management consultant and chaired the N.C. Advisory Commission on Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps.
Stephen Angel, ’77, College of Engineering: Angel is chair, president and CEO of Praxair, Inc., a Fortune 300 company that ranks as the largest industrial gases producer and distributor in North and South America, with sales of $11 billion in 2011. Before joining Praxair, Angel spent more than two decades at GE, most recently as general manager of the company’s $2 billion power equipment business. He serves on the board of directors of the U.S.-China Business Council and PPG Industries, and is a member of the Business Roundtable, the Business Council and the U.S.-Brazil Forum.
Jimmy Clark ’74, College of Engineering: Clark is the owner and president of Guy M. Turner, Inc., a diversified company that is a leader in the handling and moving of the heaviest equipment in the fields of rigging, machine tool installation, crane services and specialized transportation. The company has 12 offices in the United States and Canada. Clark serves on the NC State Board of Trustees, as well as on the board of directors for the NC State Alumni Association and the Engineering Foundation. He previously chaired the NC State Board of Visitors.
John Edmond ’87, College of Engineering: While earning his PhD in material sciences and engineering, Edmond teamed with other graduate students and young faculty on some promising silicon carbide research. Upon graduation, the group co-founded what became CREE Inc., one of the world’s top LED manufacturers. Today, Edmond is director of advanced optoelectronics for the Durham-based company, which makes energy-efficient LED lights, lighting components and semiconductor products.
Susan Warren Rabon ’82, College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Rabon is a member of the N.C. Utilities Commission, which regulates the rates and services of all of the state’s public utilities. Rabon, who received her law degree from the University of Virginia, has also worked as a clerk in the N.C. Court of Appeals, as special counsel and then chief of staff for the N.C. Department of Justice, and senior assistant for administration in the office of the governor. She has previously served on the NC State Board of Visitors.
Kevin Beasley ’79, Poole College of Management: Beasley, a CPA, is a partner-in-charge of tax practice at the Raleigh office of Grant Thornton, one of the Big Six international accounting firms. He previously worked at Arthur Anderson, where he rose to the position of partner and earned a spot in the inaugural class of the NC State Accounting Hall of Fame.
Ray Tanner ’80, College of Natural Resources: Tanner, a former All-ACC baseball player at NC State, was named athletics director for the University of South Carolina last year after spending 25 years as a collegiate head baseball coach, including nine years as the head coach at NC State. Under Tanner’s direction, the baseball team at South Carolina won two NCAA Division I Baseball Championships and made six appearances in the College World Series. Tanner has been named National Coach of the Year three times.
Sung Won Lee, ’60 MS, ’67 PhD, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences: After earning his graduate degrees at NC State, Lee returned to his native South Korea to lead the S-Oil Corporation to success as the third largest oil refinery in Korea. He also served as chairman of two South Korean chemical companies. But his passion is downhill skiing, and his family built Korea’s oldest and largest ski and snowboard resort, which will host alpine skiing events for the 2018 Winter Olympics and 2018 Winter Paralympics. Lee is founder and president of the Asian Ski Federation, former vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia and honorary president of the Korean Ski Association.
Michael Fralix ’00 PhD, College of Textiles: Fralix is the president and CEO of [TC]2, a company that develops next generation supply chain technologies such as 3-D body scanners used in product development for apparel and equipment, made-to-measure clothing, clothing size and style recommendations and body shape analysis.
Dr. Laura Rush ’97 DVM, College of Veterinary Medicine: Rush began her career as a registered nurse, specializing in the care of cancer patients, before going to vet school. Following graduation, she joined the faculty at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and headed a laboratory funded by the National Institute of Health that focused on cancer research in dogs and humans. Rush now works as vice president and associate medical director for GSW Worldwide, a healthcare marketing firm where she helps develop marketing strategies for healthcare companies.
WOLFPACK CLUB AWARD
Nora Lynn Finch, Ronnie Shavlik Award: Finch was a pioneer for collegiate women’s athletics, serving as the ACC’s first female assistant athletics director and negotiated the first women’s basketball tournament television contract with CBS. At NC State, Finch served as head volleyball and softball coach, associate head coach for women’s basketball, and assistant, associate and senior associate athletics director. She is currently the ACC’s associate commissioner for women’s basketball operations and senior women’s administrator. She has been inducted into the National Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
ALUMNI ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Ryan DeJong ’05, Outstanding Young Alumnus: DeJong, chief operating officer of FIRM Consulting Group, has led the Tampa NC State Alumni Network since 2007. As network leader, DeJong has aggressively promoted his alma mater and the Alumni Association. He recruits and manages volunteers to staff local college fairs and plans many types of group activities for his fellow Tampa Wolfpackers.
Sherice Nivens ’98, Outstanding Young Alumnus: Nivens, cardiac sales manager for Intuitive Surgical, is a member of the PAMS Alumni and Friends Advisory Board and a founding member of the Dean’s Circle. She served as the keynote speaker for the 2009 Department of Chemistry graduation ceremony and the 2010 Society of African American Physical and Mathematical Scientists annual banquet.
Bill Collins ’54, ’61 MS, Meritorious Service Award: Collins, a world renowned expert in tobacco field production, was a Philip Morris Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for 28 years. Since retiring in 2005, Collins joined the CALS Office of College Advancement as senior director of development. He is a former member of the board of directors of the Alumni Association.
Judi Grainger ’72 MS, Meritorious Service Award: Grainger served as president of the Alumni Association board of directors in 2011 and served for a total of 14 years on the board. She also serves on the NC State Board of Visitors, the College of Education Advisory Board and the board of directors of The State Club.
Everett Case engineered unprecedented success for NC State men’s basketball for 18 years while he was head coach. He brought an up-tempo style to a game that had largely been relegated to the half court. And he helped promote the sport in new ways, vaulting the Wolfpack and the ACC to the top of the basketball world.
And it was on this day in 1964 that what many consider the golden age of NC State basketball came to an end, when the coach they called “the Old Gray Fox” stepped down as the program’s head coach due to health reasons. Case would die two years later after an extensive battle with cancer.
During Case’s tenure, the Wolfpack went 377-134 and won 10 conference championships. He won six championships at the annual Dixie Classic, a tournament that was his brainchild. And he coached seven All-Americans — John Richter, Vic Molodet, Lou Pucillo, Bobby Speight, Ronnie Shavlik, Sam Ranzino and Dick Dickey.
Here’s how the 1965 Agromeck summed up Case’s achievements: “There is little doubt Everett Case’s contribution in filling the basketball program with glamour, exhilarating competition, and high-principled sportsmanship is indirectly responsible for the great success in the sport shared by many teams in North Carolina and the South.”
Case was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 1982, and into the NC State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012 as an inaugural member.
For Steve Garrett ’85, teaching classes such as drafting, electronics and applied physics at Topsail High School in Hampstead, N.C., has been a part of his everyday routine for the past 26 years. However, when asked about his true passion, Garrett will tell you his love comes in the form of an electric vehicle.
Twelve years ago, Garrett formed Topsail High School’s Electric Vehicle Program, and approximately 125 students have been through the program since then. Each year, about ten students enroll in Garrett’s class and meet for an hour each day before school to work on the vehicle and prepare for the Electric Vehicle Challenge at the N.C. Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR) facility in Garysburg, N.C.
Having the program available to high school students is an expensive endeavor that requires the help of community partners. For every car that is converted into an electric vehicle, an average of $12,000 is needed.
Garrett’s students work to collect all of the funds needed through fundraising, raffles and sponsorships from local businesses. A total of five vehicles have been purchased or donated to the program. This year, students received a 1991 Toyota MR2 and a 2001 Ford Ranger Edge to use in competition.
On a typical morning, students have a briefing with Garrett to establish goals. Then, the work begins. Teams within the group work independently to achieve the goals of converting the vehicle and spend much of their time maintaining or repairing current conversions. Once students begin working on the vehicle, the goal is to remove the internal combustion engine and replace it with electric power.
“During the year, the goal is to provide students with the opportunity to work as a team and become successful in competitions,” Garrett said in an interview conducted by email. “I want to teach them to convert gas-powered vehicles to electric power while learning teamwork and engineering practices that are needed to complete a conversion.”
While in Roanoke Rapids for the Electric Vehicle Challenge, Garrett’s students compete in seven different categories, including Oratorical, Troubleshooting, Vehicle Design, Range, Community Involvement and Electric Vehicle Jeopardy.
On October 22, the Topsail High School team was recognized as the most organized and most motivated group and came home with 10 trophies in a variety of categories. Topsail High School has received 162 trophies since they began competing in 1999.
“The competition is an amazing, comprehensive competition,” Garrett says. “My students always strive to win, but at the same time, help other schools. When necessary if other schools do not have enough team members to fill an event, we will offer students to fill them in so they can compete.”
Seeing his students succeed has been the most rewarding part of his experience in the electric vehicle program. Upon completing the program, Garrett has seen many of his students continue on to universities, enroll in community colleges and continue their work on electric vehicles in the industry. Twenty-five have gone on to become a part of the Wolfpack family and two have received Park scholarships.
“Without a solid foundation, you have nothing to build upon,” Garrett says.
Growing up in Waynesville, N.C., Troy Tolle ’98 wasn’t a big computer person. He didn’t have the opportunity to use a computer until the end of high school, and even then it was just to write papers and complete other assignments. So it may come as a surprise that Tolle is co-founder and chief technology officer of a successful company, DigitalChalk, that provides online education and cloud computing technology.
“In high school, I loved math but I was very artistic,” Tolle says. “I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to do special effects in movies and she said I would have to go into computer science. Well, that wasn’t the right advice, but I went into it and fell in love.”
Studying computer science and design at NC State, Tolle enjoyed the ability to innovate and create something that had never existed. “There’s a real art form to how you design your code and that’s what really drew me in,” Tolle says. “I love solving problems, and with computer science I get to do that.”
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1998 and his master’s in 2000, Tolle remained at NC State as an adjunct professor of computer science while also pursuing a career in consulting for the Raleigh-based company CrossLogic. Serving companies like Sprint and Wachovia, Tolle helped design scalable software solutions and architect systems. But his passion for education and teaching was also growing.
In 2006, with the help of an enthusiastic investor who saw the potential of Tolle’s idea, Tolle launched his own company, DigitalChalk, an online training platform to which users can upload videos and presentations for continuing and corporate education programs.
“The first couple of years were just really hard,” Tolle says. “We were just trying to build the thing and build it faster than anyone else.”
With YouTube barely off the ground at the time, Tolle says people didn’t grasp the concept of uploading video to the Internet to deliver content. “Getting over that barrier was easy for us — it made sense to us because we’re tech guys,” he says. “But the market wasn’t quite ready for it and we had to educate people that this was the future of technology.”
Now Tolle says there is a staggering amount of money funneled into online education programs. “Companies like ours are being acquired left and right,” he says. “The education market for software is just exploding.”
The basis of the DigitalChalk product, cloud computing technology, didn’t exist when Tolle began developing his ideas for the company. At the time, Amazon had just introduced a product called the elastic compute cloud, a beta product that could launch a server for just 10 cents an hour. “It was very under the radar but I got turned on to it and just really dived in and embraced it,” Tolle says.
Now considered an expert in the field, Tolle travels to places like Chicago, San Francisco and even Egypt to present his experiences and ideas on cloud computing. “It really neat to do those things and help other people move on top of this technology,” he says. “I love how fast paced it is – everything changes weekly and I’m able to be a part of that and push the envelope.”
Six years later, Tolle says DigitalChalk is evolving constantly to meet the needs of its customers. “We’re releasing new features every two months for our software,” he says. “I love that we’re not stagnant. We don’t want to just match other companies feature for feature; we want to be on the forefront.”
Based in Asheville, N.C. — far outside the hub of technology in the Triangle — Tolle is looking beyond DigitalChalk for other ways to increase western North Carolina’s technology footprint.
In collaboration with Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Tolle has launched a technology accelerator which will fund ten burgeoning tech companies with $18,000 each to create their product and pitch their ideas to venture capitalists. At NC State, Tolle serves as vice chairman of the computer science department’s strategic advisory board.
“I got to sit in on that board as a student and listen to industry leaders from around the country, and now I get to be one of the people on that board,” Tolle says. “I’m extremely honored to be asked to be a part of that. At the end of the day I’m just having a lot of fun and using the talents given to me to help in any way that I can.”
As alumni make their way back to campus for the Homecoming festivities this week, many will spend their time reminiscing about their friends, experiences, classes and adventures at NC State. Sonya Windham-Wilder ’90 and Kirk Wilder ’90 will be caught up in more recent memories as they celebrate at the place where they re-connected and fell in love two years ago.
Windham, from Charlotte, N.C., and Wilder, a Virginia native, came to NC State as undergraduates in the fall of 1986. Windham-Wilder spent her time at State studying chemistry and decided to pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority her sophomore year. Wilder, a law and political philosophy major, pledged Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity his freshman year. The two met each other through their involvement in Greek life.
“We would always see each other around campus and would be at the same parties, social functions and other events,” Wilder says. “Because of our close connection in Greek life I saw Sonya all the time.”
The two began casually dating in the spring of their sophomore year.
Sonya Windham-Wilder and Kirk Wilder tailgate before the homecoming game in 2010
“We went on a few dates during our sophomore year but it was very casual,” Windham-Wilder says. “But I always had a little bit of a college crush on Kirk.”
Both earned undergraduate degrees in 1988 and went separate ways after graduation. Windham chose to pursue a career in dentistry and received her dental medicine degree from Medical University of South Carolina in 1996. She completed her residency in Columbia, South Carolina, and took an advanced training program in pediatric dentistry in 2001. Then she moved to Atlanta and opened her first practice.
Wilder, meanwhile, returned to Virginia to attend law school. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Howard University in Washington D.C., in May 1993 and relocated to his hometown to practice family law.
Throughout the time that the duo was apart, both spent their time with other people and went almost twenty years without keeping in touch.
That all changed when they both returned to Raleigh in 2010 for the NC State homecoming football game.
Wilder was a season ticket holder and was planning on coming back to Raleigh for homecoming but Windham-Wilder was not even sure if she was going to make it to Raleigh for the game.
“I returned to NC State in 2009 for a homecoming game and wasn’t planning on coming back in 2010,” Windham-Wilder says. “At the last minute one of my sorority sisters convinced me to go and I am glad she did.”
The evening before the game, both attended a karaoke night hosted by the Black Alumni Society. They saw each other and began to talk, catching up on their lives for the past twenty years. As Windham-Widler began to walk away she turned back and decided to tell Wilder that he had always been her “college crush.”
Both of them, as well as their friends, realized that night that their relationship was going to grow.
“All of our friends recognized that there was a spark,” Windham-Wilder says. “They knew as they saw us talking that something was going to happen between us.”
Windham-Wilder and Wilder got married in Georgia on August 11, 2012
As luck would have it, their seats for the football game were next to each other despite having ordered their tickets at different times.
The couple spent about a year and a half in a long-distance relationship, seeing each other once or twice a month. In May, Wilder decided to move his law practice to Atlanta and the two were engaged to be married in September 2011. They got married on August 11 in Jonesboro, Georgia, surrounded by family and friends that they made during their time at NC State.
NC State will always have a special place in their hearts.
“NC State helped me become a mature, independent woman and allowed me to establish some lifelong friendships,” Windham-Wilder says. “It helped lay a great educational foundation for the both of us to continue on into graduate school in our respective fields and it’s where we met.”
“NC State means absolutely everything to me,” Wilder says. “I met my best friends and fell in love with my wife at NC State. I love NC State will all of my heart and I can’t help but smile when I think how much this school has given me.”