It is widely known that NC State students often go on to become great engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, scientists and military leaders.
What may not be as widely known is the university’s track record in producing college and university presidents.
But on this day in 1951, the Technician reported that NC State was “rapidly gaining a nation-wide reputation as a training ground for college and university presidents.”
William G. Van Note
The story was prompted by the news that William G. Van Note, head of NC State’s Department of Engineering Research, was set to become the new president of Clarkson College of Technology in Postdam, N.Y. The paper said Van Note would be the fifth faculty member from NC State (or State College, as it was known then) to become university presidents since 1939.
Others who made the leap were:
- Blake R. Van Leer, former dean of engineering at NC State, who became president of Georgia Tech.
- Robert F. Poole, former dean of the graduate school at NC State, who became president of what was then known as Clemson College.
- Carlyle Campbell, former head of the English department at NC State, who became president of Meredith College.
- David A. Lockmiller, former head of the Department of History and Political Science, who became president of the University of Chattanooga.
Shequeta Smith has a secret that only a couple of her co-workers know about. When she leaves her 9-to-5 job at Coca Cola, where she works in corporate sales, all she thinks about is screenwriting.
She casts the latest scene she’s written — maybe Matthew McConaughey in her movie about a man who gets pregnant. She thinks about her nine years in California, from the day jobs she had to have to pay the bills to her first encounters with Hollywood working behind the scene on such shows as Everybody Hates Chris and Flavor of Love. And she ponders what she wants her vision to be as a filmmaker.
But Smith, who graduated from NC State in 2001 with a sociology degree, is coming dangerously close to having all of her co-workers know about her budding success as a writer and director.
Last week, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s HBO show Project Greenlight, which aims to award a promising first-time filmmaker the opportunity to direct a feature film, announced Smith’s trailer for her yet-to-be-made movie, The Gestapo vs. Granny, is one of 20 finalists for the show.
“I have two gigantic notebooks full of rejection letters,” Smith says. “I keep each one. I wasn’t ready then, but this is going to happen. Visualizing it, I know it’s going to happen. I don’t know when, but I’d like for it to happen now.”
Smith, 35, says writing has always been in her heart, whether it was composing rap lyrics as a kid growing up in Salisbury to hearing North Carolina-based storyteller Jackie Torrence come to her school. She never thought of it as a viable career option, and instead came to NC State to be pediatrician, a goal she now laughs off thinking back to how college chemistry forced her to reimagine her professional plans.
Smith still holds on to her play she wrote as a freshman at NC State. Her instructor urged her to explore screenwriting after reading it.
But an English 101 instructor at NC State gave Smith some direction. “My freshman year, I wrote a play called Shades of Darkness,” she says. “She told me, ‘You should really consider screenwriting.’”
It would be three more years, an internship with Def Jam/Rock-A-Fella records and interviews she wrote up for the Nubian Message before Smith again thought of returning to writing a script. She tried her hand at writing something and submitting it for a show. Then she wrote a script for a film called Drama about a girl who’s a model and finds out she’s HIV-positive. It was a finalist for the Screenwriters Lab at the Sundance Institute. It didn’t make the final cut, but it was enough of a sign that she moved to Los Angeles, where she’s been the last nine years trying to make it Hollywood.
Smith has worked on sitcoms and reality television shows. In 2008, she started her own company, Rayven Choi Films. She has written and directed two short films, The Takeover, a romantic comedy, and The J.H. Gunn Project, a drama about a young man trying to turn his life around.
Smith directs action in the trailer she made for The Gestapo vs. Granny.
But it’s her turn at comedy with Gestapo, a film Smith hopes to make with Betty White as the lead about an elderly woman who has been kicked out of multiple nursing homes, that Smith has found to be the most rewarding and challenging work.
“Comedy is my one,” she says. “It’s hard to make people laugh. Everyone has different senses of humor.”
If she is chosen for Project Greenlight she might get that chance to work with one of her idols who she grew up watching on Mama’s Family and The Golden Girls. But directing her own movie, even with White as the star, will not be Smith’s greatest thrill.
“Writing is my biggest love affair,” she says. “That’s what brought me here.”
Bryan Hum got an unexpected treat not long after he sat down to dinner last night at a restaurant in Albany, New York. And it appears he has a fellow NC State alumnus to thank for the pleasant surprise.
Hum, a 2013 NC State graduate who majored in international studies and political science, is in his second year of law school at Albany Law School. After attending a Student Bar Association meeting last night, Hum and a friend walked to a favorite restaurant for dinner. They had just ordered drinks, when a waitress walked up and handed Hum a hand-written note and a $20 bill. She said another diner had noticed Hum’s red NC State t-shirt, and asked her to give him the note and the money.
“Apply this to your bill! God bless!” read the the note. It was signed “Brian,” with no last name, and indicated that “Brian” was a 1996 NC State graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Hum’s initial reaction was confusion. He wondered if it came from someone he knew, particularly since it was signed “Brian,” a different spelling of Hum’s first name. He asked the waitress to point the customer out, but she said that he had given her the note and the money as he was leaving. “He saw your shirt and wanted you to apply this to your bill,” the waitress told Hum.
Hum thought briefly about going outside to try to track down his benefactor, but quickly realized that he appreciated the anonymous nature of the gift from a fellow Wolfpacker.
“I was just astounded by it,” Hum said this morning. “It really touched me. It made me want to pay it forward myself.”
It also reinforced the strong feelings that Hum already had for NC State and its alumni — something that he quickly shared with friends via social media. “We talk about the great alumni we have, and this just proves it,” he said. “We look out for each other. It’s just a great connection we all have.”
Hum says he only spent $15 of the gift on his dinner, and plans to use the remaining $5 to pay it forward – hopefully sometime later today or this weekend.
Filmmakers Kieran Moreira and Andrew Martin were sitting around in the summer of 2012, charged by their boss at Drawbridge Media, a Raleigh video production company, to find content the studio could produce. They read script after script, but nothing really struck the pair. So Moreira decided to present his own idea.
“I had this one idea I called ‘Cloud Fortress,’” says Moreira, who graduated from NC State with a film studies degree in 2011. “I had this image of a boy trying to climb up to the sky.”
That nugget turned into the new short film, Harbinger, that Moreira directed and co-wrote with Martin. The independent movie will premiere at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on Centennial Campus Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
The film centers around a relationships between a mother and her young son Harold, whose imagination helps him deal with the changing complexities of his reality. “We had always seen it as a fantasy based in reality,” Moreira says. “The fantasy hides the more harsh realities of the world. Harold is at a transition. He is discovering things from his past. So the fantasy is an escape, but it is a shield, too.”
Moreira and Martin, who graduated from NC State in 1999 with a textile engineering degree, learned their own realities could be harsh, as well, in the three years it’s taken to get the film out. They launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for the production costs, and they didn’t reach their goal. And they didn’t have the luxury of focusing solely on their movie.
“There was a tremendous amount of challenges,” Martin says. “This was going to be a year or two of our lives. Even though Drawbridge was encouraging us, we still had a full slate of work from our day jobs.”
But the fact they were able to pull it off with the help of many volunteers was instrumental in accomplishing one of their main goals. They felt they could show that while movies like Iron Man 3, some of which was shot in Cary, N.C., garner a lot of attention for the film industry in North Carolina, there is a strong independent movement afoot in the state that is already producing quality work.
From left to right, Kieran Moreira, Andrew Martin and Paul Frateschi.
“Something we always wanted to do was to showcase the talents here at home,” says Paul Frateschi, the film’s director of photography and 2009 NC State graduate. “A lot of those big films come in and bring in a DP from New York or out of state. We wanted to show what quality work we’re doing here locally. It was freelance crew people. It was the actors. We wanted to tell a North Carolina story with a North Carolina crew and cast.”
And that goal is tied to another one Martin sees as directly tied to his Wolfpack roots.
“Ultimately, so much of the reason we did this was to build the community,” he says. “We would love to build the film department and communication department at NC State so more film can come out of there.”
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.