Doug Mattox was a history buff long before he majored in the subject at NC State.
As a boy growing up in Wendell, N.C., he discovered stamp collecting. No one in his immediate family was a stamp aficionado, but Mattox gravitated to it. And just like a stamp, the hobby stuck.
Today, Mattox is the founder and president of Mattox Coins & Stamps, Inc., a Raleigh company that generated $1.5 million in revenue last year.
“It’s just the treasure hunter in me,” he says, when asked what has kept his business going for more than 35 years. “You never know what’s going to come in the door or what you’re going to find in a box of stuff. That’s what keeps it fun.”
As the name implies, the company deals in more than just rare stamps. Mattox and his son, Austin, work as agents and brokers, appraising the value of coins, currency, stamps and envelopes and selling them to auction houses.
The work attracts a variety of clientele, ranging from universities and bank trusts to individuals who inherit items from deceased loved ones and aren’t sure of their value. Other customers come to Mattox with items they purchased for investment and are ready to sell.
But the Internet has fooled many a would-be collector, says Mattox, who graduated from NC State in 1976. People often buy coins that are purported to be rare by advertisers, only to learn that they were duped when they come to Mattox for an appraisal.
One of the most counterfeited items that Mattox comes across are U.S. gold coins. Valuable ones are about 90 percent pure, but Mattox says people often come to him excitedly with some, only to find that their coins are perhaps 50 percent gold, or even just gold-plated brass.
“I tell them just to put it in the bank or give it to a kid,” he says. “You know, on the Antiques Roadshow, everybody gets good news. But here, more people get bad news than good news.”
Over the years, Mattox has encountered many old and unusual items. One day, he might find himself appraising German currency from the 1920s. The next, a $5 American bill from the 1880s. The priciest item sold recently was a set of Tibetan stamps from 1907 for $121,000.
But as a former American history major, Mattox gets the most excited when an American colonial item comes his way.
“That’s always fun because we weren’t very populated – even in big cities – in colonial days,” he says. “So when you run across envelopes or currency, that’s always cool.”
One California day, a scared and suicidal man walked into a homeless shelter in a city he’d never been to before. He’d been discharged from a psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas three days before, given a bus ticket and shipped off to Sacramento with barely any food and little medication.
He was looking for help – but he never imagined it would come from Phillip Reese, a 1999 NC State graduate and investigative reporter for The Sacramento Bee.
Reese and colleague Cynthia Hubert uncovered a systematic process of patient dumping by the Nevada hospital, which shipped 1,500 mental patients out of state over five years, stranding many in unfamiliar cities with no support system.
Some ended up turning to crime, including one murder.
Reese and Hubert’s reporting led to multi-million dollar reforms in the Nevada mental health care system, led to Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital being stripped of its accreditation and received several prestigious awards, including becoming a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
Reese, a former Technician editor-in-chief, called the patient dumping series the most important and effective work of his career thus far.
“This was a very taxing story to report,” Reese said in an email interview. “Cold calling people and asking them about their time in a mental hospital is tough.”
Finding the patients and family members who were willing to talk was one challenge. So was identifying the trend. To do it, The Bee requested the receipts of bus tickets that has been purchased in the last five years.
Reese, who is skilled at data analysis, put the receipts into a database and mapped them. He discovered Rawson-Neal had bused patients to each state in the continental United States during that period, and that’s when he and Hubert started tracking them down.
Some were dead ends. Some of the patients’ stories couldn’t be verified. But thousands of hours later, Reese and Hubert had spoken with nearly two dozen patients and 100 family members, as well as former Rawson-Neal employees who confirmed that busing patients without escorts happened more frequently than officials claimed.
The reports led Rawson-Neal to change its busing policies so that now no one can travel without a chaperone. The state of Nevada also has allocated $30 million in additional funding for mental health care in the state.
“That was validating,” said Reese.
Since the series was published in 2013, Rawson-Neal made changes that enable it to continue receiving federal Medicare funds. A civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of the Sacramento man that was the catalyst for Reese’s series was just dismissed, but the attorney plans to appeal.
Asked if he has any other investigative pieces currently on his radar, Reese has a one-word reply:
Email can seem like such an easy way to communicate.
But, as Cheryl Sutton has recognized, email can also be confusing, unclear and ineffective. Her mission is to help individuals and organizations do a better job with email.
“Very few of us have been educated how to use email,” says Sutton, who graduated in 2004 from NC State with two undergraduate degrees.
To address the problem, Sutton started her own email consulting company, Email Lemonade, from her home in Belmont, N.C., earlier this year. She serves as the company’s president and “email ambassador.”
“I have always taken email very seriously,” she says. “I don’t want people to feel like they have to settle for bad email.”
Sutton, who also earned an MBA from Northwestern University, worked for Jockey International for nearly a decade before she started her new venture. For many of those years, she worked in Jockey’s international division, requiring her to communicate with people around the world.
“There are particular challenges when communicating internationally,” she says. “You have to pay attention to the tone you use. So much of your relationship is based in email. You can’t always pick up the phone or have a face-to-face meeting. I learned how to be very clear, and even preemptively answer questions when I sent an email.”
Sutton, who will be the featured speaker at an upcoming session as part of the Alumni Association’s Career Webinar Series, says that by following some simple steps, people can increase the chances that their emails stand out among the clutter of emails that many people receive.
Make sure, for example, to put a subject in the email’s subject line. Sutton says many people fail to take that simple step, making it likely that their email will move to the bottom of the pile.
She also says it’s important to format your email. “People glaze over it when they see an email with one long paragraph,” she says. “When you break it up into three shorter paragraphs, or put it in some bullets, it’s much easier for the reader to digest the email.”
Sutton says job-seekers need to be careful with their emails with potential employers. “People forget that grammar actually matters,” she says. “Have an opening to the email. Close it with, ‘Kind regards, Cheryl.’ Just really basic content like that. People are so used to texting now.”
It’s critical, Sutton says, that people are mindful of the tone of their emails.
“Tone is one of the most overlooked and also one of the most important considerations,” she says. “If I receive this email, would I think it was friendly or positive. I have seen a lot of business relationships get wrecked because they didn’t think about the tone.”
Sutton’s webinar session on July 8 is free for NC State alumni. To register, visit the webinar series website, and click on the button that says “registration.”
Grown-ups always told young Madelyn Rosenberg that she should be an author.
It started in the fifth grade, when Rosenberg wrote a story about how Randy the raccoon got his mask. He was at a Halloween party, and his mask shrunk while bobbing for apples. No one could get it off, and it remained there forever.
Her relatives loved the tale, and they correctly forecasted Rosenberg’s future. Today, Rosenberg is a children’s writer, with three books already published and three more about to hit store shelves. The next book, a young adult novel called Dream Boy co-written with her friend Mary Crockett, comes out July 1.
Despite the praise of her earliest works, Rosenberg had no idea what to study when she came to NC State in 1985. “That was ridiculous, because writing is the only thing I’ve ever been able to do,” she says. “But it just never occurred to me that it was something that I could turn into a career.”
Rosenberg decided on an English major. Over the next four years, she honed her writing skills in the classroom and delved into journalism as a staff writer for Technician, going on to become its news editor.
After graduating in 1989, Rosenberg worked as a reporter for the Roanoke Times in Virginia. It was a job she loved, but eventually the allure of make-believe storytelling was too great. Rosenberg got a master’s degree in creative writing at Boston University in 2002 and returned to NC State as an adjunct professor in journalism for a year, all while submitting samples of her work to book publishers.
It was a frustrating process that lasted at least a decade.
“It took a lot of ‘no’s’ before I got a ‘yes,’” Rosenberg says with a laugh. “I didn’t count rejections because if I did, that probably would have thrown me into a depression. I did hit a point where I would prepare envelopes so that when a rejection came, I wouldn’t have to get over that whole psychic barrier before sending out another query.”
In 2009, Rosenberg got an agent – and that’s when she scored her first book deals. Her first children’s books, The Schmutzy Family and Happy Birthday, Tree, A Tu B’Shevat Story, came out on the same day in 2012.
“Every time I write a book, I feel like ‘This is the last book anyone is ever going to publish by me, ever,’” Rosenberg says. “So, when the first ones came out, I pretty much wanted not to be a one-hit wonder.”
But her luck didn’t end there. Next was a book for middle graders called Canary in the Coal Mine, which was named a VOYA Magazine top-shelf read and a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People in 2013.
Rosenberg says writing for a young audience comes naturally. She has two children, a son and daughter, and says she has always been fascinated with the unique ways children navigate the world.
Her books often explore on sibling relationships, drawn from her own close relationship with her brother and the dynamics she sees between her children and their friends. How to Behave at a Tea Party, due out Sept. 9, will focus on a Type-A little girl who has to learn to let loose when her brother keeps wrecking her proper tea party. Nanny X, due later in September, involves siblings with a secret agent nanny.
When she is not telling her own stories, Rosenberg continues real-life writing for Arlington Magazine in northern Virginia.
NC State’s Department of English had been housed in Winston Hall for 20 years in the spring of 1980. But due to space constraints and a move into the digital age, it was announced on this day in 34 years ago that the department would find a new home in Tompkins Hall.
“Right now, we are teaching any and everywhere,” said Larry S. Champion, professor of English and the department’s chair, in a 1980 Technician article. “We do desperately need the space.”
And part of that space would go to a state-of-the-art computer center to be used as a writing lab. It was meant to solidify a commitment to the writing and editing program and to help place students in journalism or business writing jobs.
“Students will use terminals with video display screens which will display texts for editing,” the Technician reported. “The terminals will be hooked by telephone line line into the Triangle Universities Computation Center (TUCC) used by State, Carolina and Duke, which is based at the Research Triangle.”
Tompkins, which has been home to the English department ever since, was undergoing a renovation at the time of the announcement. The building finally welcomed the wordsmiths in March 1981.
The early months of 1960 were turbulent ones in North Carolina, with the civil rights movement at the forefront. In February, four African-American students staged a sit-in inside of a Greensboro Woolworth’s after they were denied service. And two weeks later, Martin Luther King Jr. came to White Rock Baptist Church in Durham on the heels of that protest and, for the first time, called for activists to break the law through nonviolent protests.
On that day, 1,200 citizens came to hear King’s message, which historians refer to as his “fill up the jails” speech. And this Sunday, NC State’s Virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Project will bring the civil rights leader’s words back to life as performer Marvin Blanks re-enacts the historic sermon in Durham.
“Doing it in the symbolic location of the church does two things,” says Keon Pettiway, a 2005 CHASS grad and doctoral student in the communications and rhetoric department who’s working on the project. “It’s a public marker for the history of Durham. But it’s also about the wider significance of the black church as a center for community activism.”
The virtual project, the idea of an NC State communications professor, is designed to explore the effectiveness of public speakers. When she saw the virtual Paul’s Cross project, which featured a digital re-creation of a medieval sermon in the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, she felt she could re-create a famous North Carolina speech. “We are interested in this as a rhetorical process,” says Victoria Gallagher, who teaches communication ethics and organizational communication. “We’re trying to understand how this type of public discourse affects people.”
For Gallagher, the project centers on the concept of “kairos,” a Greek term that describes the opportune moment when all elements come together. Her team is looking at audience, speaker, what the speaker says, and the exact moment in history. “When you bring about that right moment,” she says, “you have transformation.”
While the sermon holds a pivotal place in the history of the state and nation, Gallagher believes it offers lessons for the future. “What you find is when you hit these moments,” she says, “it’s important to have someone like King who can bring all these experiences together. It was him in that moment with the people at the church. We can use this to help people be great speakers.”
The sermon will be recorded and placed on a website that is under construction and should be ready later this summer. There, visitors can listen to King’s speech in different ways.
The re-enactment, open to the public, will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at White Rock Baptist Church in Durham.
Winning one of golf’s four sought-after majors each year can be a life-changing event for a PGA professional, sometimes taking an unknown to folk-hero status or simply adding one more piece of hardware to an already-great’s mantle. Members of a golfer’s family also feel the effects of that winning — or not winning.
Such was the case for Carl Pettersson‘s two children in August 2012 at the PGA Championship in Kiawah Island, S.C. Pettersson had held the lead after the first round and a share of the lead after 36 holes. But on Sunday, he couldn’t catch Rory McIlroy, who went on to win the championship by eight strokes. Pettersson, who graduated from NC State in 2000, finished tied for third, his best finish at a major during his 12-year career on the PGA Tour.
“We told our kids if Carl ever won a major, we’d get them a dog,” says DeAnna Pettersson, Carl’s wife and herself an NC State alumna. “So at the PGA, they were like, ‘Come on, Dad.’”
It’s not often that you get to hear stories of the golfers away from the course. But DeAnna Pettersson, along with other wives who belong to the PGA Tour Wives Association, have now pulled back the ropes, so to speak, and have offered readers a glimpse of PGA professionals at home with their families in the book Beyond the Fairways and Greens: A Look Inside the Lives of PGA Tour Families.
The book features 132 golfing families, from Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to some of the youngest players on tour today. And there are some recipes included in the book, as well, to offer a taste of the golfers’ homes. All the proceeds from the book go back to the PGA Tour Wives Association and then go to all the charities they donate to through the year.
Pettersson says what’s interesting to her about the book is that it helps readers understand that PGA golfers and their families are like other families trying to juggle professional and private worlds. “Most people think it’s an extremely glamorous life, going to what oftentimes is a resort property,” she says. “But it’s a work week. We’re doing the exact same thing on the road. The laundry. The kids still have to go to school. It’s a job. And it’s a wonderful job.”
She says the PGA tour makes it easy for family and professional lives to intersect, adding that there’s a kinship among golf families. “We all feel like we’re family.”
Left to right: Carlie, DeAnna, Chase and Carl.
The Petterssons first met at East Village in 2000 when they were both at NC State — Carl, a Wolfpack golfer and CHASS major studying communication, and DeAnna, a CHASS major with a focus on textiles. They dated for a couple of years after graduation while Carl played on the European Tour and commuted to London. The couple married in 2003 and settled in Raleigh, and DeAnna soon started traveling with Carl to all the PGA events. These days, she still travels with him to the almost 30 events he plays a year, and they often bring along their daughter, Carlie, who is 9, and son. Chase, who is 6.
DeAnna laughs about being married to someone who plays golf, a sport she had no involvement with until she met Carl. And she says that the she’s grown more superstitious in her 14 years with him. “The longer we’re together, the more I’m involved emotionally and physically,” she says. ”I’ve become more superstitious. I’m like ’I was chewing gum and he bogeyed. Maybe I need to get rid of the gum.’…If he’s eaten eggs with Tabasco and he has six birdies, then we’re eating eggs with Tabasco sauce the rest of the week.”
The ups and downs of the golfing life are not lost on DeAnna Pettersson, and she realizes the magic can leave the golfer’s putter on the next hole or in the next round. That’s why Carl and DeAnna finally caved two months ago and got Carlie and Chase a chocolate lab named Grace.
Maybe a victory in a major tournament will come next.
Tyler Helikson remembers last August and the early days of Happy + Hale, a healthy option food delivery service in downtown Raleigh.
He and business partner Matt Whitley had just turned their vision into a company. There was nobody else but them and one line cook in a kitchen. The summer was bearing down on them as they took turns operating a juice tricycle on the corner of Hargett and Fayetteville streets.
Tyler Helikson, left, and Matt Whitley, right.
And then there was the delivery of Happy + Hale’s juices and salads, which could prove tricky with everything from a golf cart that might die to dangerous Raleigh traffic.
“I remember one time I was using Matt’s car for delivery, and a city bus came by and took off the door when I had opened it,” says Helikson, who graduated from NC State in 2007 with a communications degree. “But we looked at the vision and the lives we impacted, and we knew it would be okay.”
Helikson, 29, and Whitley, 26, have grown Happy + Hale into a downtown mainstay, offering healthy food in a quick way. They now have seven full-time employees, and that number will double in mid-June when the pair opens the company’s first brick and mortar store.
It’s the culmination of of a dream for Helikson and Whitley, who also attended NC State, who never strayed from what they saw as the bigger picture to the business.
“There was a serious need for and lack of quick healthy and delicious food in Raleigh,” says Helikson, a Charlotte native. “We knew as long as we continued to put in the hours and connected with a lifestyle choice, we would succeed.”
The idea first came to Helikson when he was traveling around the country in a previous job, selling champagne for Moet Hennessey. That experience gave him time to see other cities, like Los Angeles, Austin and Portland, Ore., that he says are ahead of the curve with flourishing downtown cultures. And it hit him that similar delivery options in those cities would take off in Raleigh.
“Raleigh’s one of those cities growing rapidly,” he says. “You have an influx of young, healthy, progressive people who are conscientious about their health.”
The Alumni Association is honoring 26 NC State professors with the 2014 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.
Today we’re visiting with D. Troy Case, an associate professor and director of graduate programs in anthropology. Case is one of seven professors being recognized as a Distinguished Undergraduate Professor.
What prompted you to become a professor? I’ve been interested in the research side of academia since I was a young child. My grandparents lived on an old sheep ranch, and I remember exploring the fields at age 6 or 7 and stumbling across some scattered sheep bones. I started collecting them and announced to my parents that I would find enough bones to reconstruct a whole sheep, and then when I grew up, I was going to figure out how to bring it back to life! I had lofty ambitions.
My teaching interest took a lot longer to develop. As an undergraduate, I avoided courses that had oral presentations as a requirement, even dropping one course the first week when I found out a presentation was required. In graduate school, I had so much anxiety over my first oral presentation that I got physically sick. If there had been a pure research route available to me during those early years of graduate study, I would have pursued it. But now, with practice, I find that I really enjoy teaching. I actually enjoy the challenge of trying to make difficult concepts accessible and understandable to my students.
What are the keys to being a successful teacher/professor? For me, the keys to success as a teacher are organization, fairness, empathy and some level of passion for the subject. Most students want to know in advance exactly what is required of them in a course, and what actions they need to take to be successful. Much of this can be accomplished with a clearly-written syllabus, and by drawing the students’ attention back to the syllabus every class period or two to remind them of what is coming. I sometimes suggest how much time the students should be devoting to studying for certain exams, particularly those exams that have been historically more difficult for their peers. Students seem to appreciate this guidance, even if they don’t always follow my advice!
Another important key for me is empathy for the students and their situations. I know that many students at NC State have to manage jobs and family issues while trying to get an education, while some do not. I have policies in my courses to help take these varying obligations into account. For example, I allow students to turn writing assignments in late in my upper division courses, although there is a penalty for doing so. The penalty is about fairness to those who completed assignments on time, while the acceptance of late papers is about empathy. Also, if we need to make any changes to the course schedule, because we are behind, or because of unexpected events such as snow days, I often consult the students and put these changes to a vote so that they have input into the process. I want my students to understand that my main concern is that I see my students’ best work, and not just something they have thrown together to meet a deadline.
The final key for me is to design courses, as much as possible, around topics that I am enthusiastic about. When I am passionate about a subject, students seem to pay more attention. I try to weave my own research and other experiences into my courses, where possible, and also try to frame some of the topics around issues that might be relevant to my students whether or not they decide to get an advanced degree in my field. We delve into subjects such as why the average height of people differs around the world, and what average height can tell us about the health of populations in the distant past. We talk about skeletal and dental variation, such as why some people never develop wisdom teeth, and how nutritional or disease stress at young ages can change the proportionate lengths of limb bones. Students can relate to topics such as these, increasing their interest in, and attention to, the concepts behind these examples.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? Probably my greatest satisfaction comes from seeing some of our best students get accepted into quality graduate programs or medical schools. Knowing that I have played a part in their success is very rewarding. But there are other areas of satisfaction that may not be as impactful individually, but are quite rewarding in the aggregate. I teach at the 200-, 300-, and 400-level in our program, so I often have a chance to track student progress among our majors through much of their undergraduate careers. One of the things I really enjoy seeing is how the academic prowess of many of our students, in terms of writing and analytical skills, improves significantly during the time they are at NCSU. These are life skills that will serve these students well regardless of what career paths they follow. When I see high quality analysis and excellent writing from seniors who will soon be heading out to take on the world, it makes me feel very good about the work we professors do collectively to educate our students here at NC State.
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.)