Faculty News Category
Wilton Barnhardt, associate professor of creative writing in NC State’s Master of Fine Arts program, garnered accolades with his sprawling novel of the new south, Lookaway, Lookaway, after it was published in August. The New York Review of Books called it “an uncompromising satire of the nostalgic ‘legacy’ of the South, the sentiment that causes states to fly the Confederate flag….also an emotional and layered reflection on a family.”
Now the book has captured the attention of television producers. HBO has optioned Lookaway, Lookaway for a comedy series. Executive producers for the project are Sue Nagle, former HBO entertainment president, and David Miner of “30 Rock” and “Parks & Recreation.” Barnhardt and his novel were featured in the Summer 2013 issue of NC State magazine, and we caught up with him to learn more his move from the printed page to the small screen.
What are the chances that you’ll end up with a hit series? We have to remember this is an option to make a pilot that may or may not be picked up. We all know the odds. Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections had a pilot made and not picked up. The project could also die a competitive death if there is something else too similar on a network or another show that might be stealing the audience. But everyone at this stage is very positive. I think it looks good because of the people associated with it.
What kind of involvement will you have? I’m a co-executive producer. Getting an option for a book is not that difficult, but what requires a little more negotiation is making sure you have a part in the production….It’s quite likely that it will be filmed here [in North Carolina]. This is meant to be a series about New South as it really is. I don’t believe the New South has been adequately portrayed on television. It’s always the cartoon south—competitive catty women or an update of “The Beverly Hillbillies” or “The Dukes of Hazzard.” It might be entertaining but it’s not how we live. …But I’m getting serious. And this is going to be funny. David Miner, one of executive producers, is there to make sure we don’t get too unfunny.
What happens next? I’m going to LA for about 10 days in March for a meeting. What they told me is it’s an excruciatingly long time before we can march into network and say, “Here’s what we think we can get with casting, here are the first episodes.’’ When you go into the network you have to have the perfect package. Then, if you get the thumbs up, it becomes excruciatingly fast. But if all goes well, we could be going into production in 2015.
Dream cast? It’s dangerous to fantasize. Right now I’m trying to calm students down who are already casting themselves.
What kind of compensation do you get? You make very little money until you make a lot.
– Sylvia Adcock ’81
Lewis Worth Seagondollar, who witnessed the testing of the first atomic bomb as a scientist on the Manhattan Project before becoming head of the physics department at NC State, died in Raleigh on Friday. He was 92.
Seagondollar joined the faculty at NC State in 1965, serving as head of the physics department from 1965-75, and as a physics professor until his retirement in 1991. He had worked as a professor at the University of Kansas before coming to NC State.
Seagondollar began his career as one of the youngest scientists to work on the Manhattan Project to figure out how to create the first nuclear bombs as part of a secret arms race with Germany during World War II. He was part of a three-man team, known as the W Group, that did experiments at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory that verified the critical mass of Plutonium 239, a fissionable material that is used to create a nuclear chain reaction and create a blast. As the team’s junior member, Seagondollar worked an overnight shift beginning at midnight, but also had the chance to encounter notable scientists such as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi.
As part of his work on the Manhattan Project, Seagondollar was one of a handful of people who witnessed the first test explosion of an atomic bomb, at a bombing range south of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Seagondollar described the Trinity Test in a 2010 article in The News & Observer and in a 2007 speech at the American Center for Physics.
Seagondollar and other observers were stationed nine miles from the bomb site and, according to the story, told to look in the opposite direction of the blast. Seagondollar was wearing the darkest lenses he could find, the dark blue glass used by welders. But even with their backs turned, the assembled scientists were startled by what they witnessed.
“The amount of light that I saw there was the most intense light I have ever seen in my life, and I hope to God I never see another thing like that,” Seagondollar recalled in his 2007 speech. “There were mountains in the distance, and they actually seemed to mechanically jump forward.”
After counting to 15, Seagondollar turned to see the explosion. He initially thought he had forgotten to wear his dark glasses. “I was looking through the blue glass, but it was just pure white light coming through,” he said in the newspaper article.
Seagondollar described what he saw as “the proverbial mushroom cloud.” “It was not particularly loud, but it was heavy rolling thunder,” he said.
One of Seagondollar’s colleagues invited him to return to the site 30 days after the explosion to check on some experiments. Seagondollar said in his 2007 speech that he was struck by how small the hole from the blast was – about 30-40 feet wide. “Outside of that crater, though, it was really horrifying,” he recalled. “The desert floor had simply melted and was green glass. It had begun to break up into chunks about so big, and it was quite radioactive.”
An undated photo of Worth Seagondollar from his time at NC State. (Photo courtesy of Historical State, NCSU Libraries)
Years later, after giving a speech at NC State about his work on the Manhattan Project, Seagondollar was forced to confront the reality of how the atomic bomb had been used in Japan. During his speech, Seagondollar had said that the bombs had been effective and positive in bringing the war to an end. After he was finished speaking, Seagondollar noticed a member of the audience approaching him. It was a professor visiting from Japan, and he used his cane to whack one of his own legs. It made a hollow sound.
“He told me that he had lost his leg at Hiroshima, and that he agreed that what happened was beneficial to both the Americans and the Japanese,” Seagondollar recalled in the newspaper account.
Throughout his career, Seagondollar sought to support and honor other physicists. He was active in Sigma Pi Sigma, the national honor society for physics, including a stint as the organization’s president. In 1999, Sigma Pi Sigma established the Worth Seagondollar Service Award in recognition of outstanding service to the organization.
Seagondollar, who died peacefully in his sleep, had just celebrated his 71st wedding anniversary. He is survived by his wife, Winifred; their three children, Bryan, Laurie and Mark; and by four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
NC State has had 14 chancellors lead the university throughout it’s history, but none resisted the job more than Carey Bostian, who served as chancellor from 1953-59.
In the summer of 1953, he was unanimously elected to succeed John Harrelson, and Bostian agreed to take the job under one condition — that he be allowed to step down in just a couple of years. And it was on this day 60 years ago that he took office as the chancellor of NC State College.
He eventually stayed in the position for six years and dealt with a larger faculty role in running the college, students wanting more campus freedoms and the beginnings of the integration debate on campus.
Despite his administration’s challenges, Bostian served as a needed leader during a time of changing dynamics at NC State. “The college was undergoing various stresses in the 1950s with the burgeoning enrollments and limited autonomy under the UNC Consolidated University,” Hardy D. Berry wrote in Place Names on the campus of North Carolina State University.
Bostian stepped down in 1959 to return to what he loved best — teaching. He won the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award in 1968 and retired from teaching at NC State in 1973, after more than 40 years of service to the university. Today, Bostian Hall, which houses the botany, entomology, microbiology and zoology departments, bears his name.
In the 1947 Agromeck‘s dedication, the staff wrote that Bostian was “a wise counselor, a true friend, and an inspiration to all.”
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.”
Wilton Barnhardt, an associate professor of creative writing in NC State’s Master of Fine Arts program, is about to publish his fourth novel, Lookaway, Lookaway. The summer issue of NC State magazine includes an interview with Barnhardt and an excerpt from the novel, which focuses on a Southern matriarch who is trying to preserve her family’s name and legacy. The book will be available Aug. 20.
Here is more of the interview with Barnhardt. The following is an edited transcript.
How would you describe yourself as a novelist? I’ve eluded categories. I’m not a naturalist, I’m not a romantic, I’m not a realist. I would probably say that I’m a classicist. I hope I’m writing sort of the classic novels of the 19th century. I’m nervous about being in any camp. I have a New York novel. I have a religious novel. I have a Hollywood novel. This is the Southern novel.
When did you know you wanted to write these types of classics? I was in New York trying to make it as a freelance writer or in journalism — anything that was near publishing — and I bought Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert. It’s the story of a young man’s life over a period of about 25 years, through all the ups and downs; and in the end, he doesn’t get to do many of the great things he thought he was going to get to do and the love of his life turned out to not be so wonderful. And I just thought, “Yes, yes.” It struck me as this was how you wrote. It started something in me, and I started reading the classics of the 19th century novel. It started my love and my sense that I was going to write very grandly.
What appeals to you about the grand novels? It’s the completeness of the world. I like the world I live in just fine. But one of the great pleasures of novel writing is that you get to escape entirely into a world of your own making. You get to decide what happens, and I like to disappear into that world. I’ve often said that it’s a good thing that people value novel writing. Otherwise they would probably commit us to an asylum, because we live five or six years with alternative universes in our heads and these characters are as real to us as people we know, sometimes more real. You live with them so completely.
How do you decide what to write about? It’s a combination of what I’m drawn to and the thought that someone ought to write a book about dot, dot, dot. I often think I’m writing books I would want to read; and, sadly, I have to go ahead and write them because no one has or is writing that particular book.
Describe your writing process. I don’t have a good work ethic. I will answer every email in the inbox and do everything else in order to not write. At the same time, when I get dug in, I’m unstoppable. I can produce tremendous amounts in a small amount of time. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I have doubted each and every one as to whether I’ll finish it. I’ll say, “Maybe this is the one, Wilton, where your career is over. Three books isn’t so bad. It’s not the end of the world to have written three.” And then the fourth one got finished, and I’m sure I’ll say that with the fifth one, too. Well maybe four is it for you. Maybe that is the sum total of your work. Maybe you should just walk away since you don’t seem to want to write anymore. I wouldn’t say I’m tortured, but I’m certainly not productive.
What are you working on now? The European novel is next. It’s set around the time of the financial collapse, and I’ve got some comedy around it. After that, I better get back to work on the western novel before I forget what I was going to say.
What do hope your students learn from you? “If you do anything,” I tell them, “please read and read and read some more. You can’t read enough, and that’s how you get better. The absolute best seminar that you will ever have in writing is to read really great writers. Don’t read the award-winning flavor of the month. Go back and read Tolstoy and Dickens and James and Austen. Go back and read the greats and see how they did it.” Also, the 17 students I’ve taught who have gone on to publish in my 11 years as a teacher all have one thing in common: they work really, really hard. They work like dogs, in fact. If the first 200 pages of the novel are wrong, they throw away 200 pages and start again. And if you’re not that kind of person who can do that, if you’re fighting to preserve every precious paragraph you wrote, you’re probably not going to make it. You have to have some amount of ego to write, but you have to have almost no ego to edit.
Why do you write? I think it changes as you get older. As young men, you write for self-assertion. You write to say, “Hey, here I am, I’m not just a number. I’m not just another face in the crowd. I have something to say.” But as I get older, I’m not so interested in telling the crowd, “Here I am.” Maybe I’m more sure that I’m here already and don’t feel the need to get up and yell it. I now write, and this may sound like a strange answer, but I write because I get to hang out with other writers. It’s a tree house. I don’t think you get to climb up and be in the tree house unless you’re a writer. Some of my very best friendships and some of my very best conversations and nights on the town have been with other writers. I know that is a romantic view of writing; but for the most part, particularly down South, writers are some of the most interesting people you’ll meet. So I will keep writing to keep hanging out with other writers.
— Cherry Crayton ’01, ’03 MED
We previously posted excerpts from interviews with two other NC State authors whose novels are also featured in the summer issue of NC State magazine. Click here to read excerpts of our interview with Jill McCorkle, professor of practice of creative writing and the author of Life after Life. Click here to read excerpts of our interview with Elaine Neil Orr, a professor of English, and the author of A Different Sun.
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
After being bombarded with questions from fresh graduates finding their way in the job market through the years, Susan Katz, internship coordinator in the Department of English at NC State, decided to write about her experience and knowledge in a comprehensive guide.
“About two years ago, I realized a lot of people were contacting me for help. I found myself saying the same things,” says Katz, who is also an associate professor of English and frequently helps students interested in internships writing for NC State magazine and redandwhiteforlife.com.
The book, “Start Your Career: 5 Steps to Finding the Right Job After College,” is targeted at college students who are trying to choose a career path and working towards landing their first job after college.
“There is a big difference between people who are just out of college trying to find a job and those who are experienced and are trying to do the same,” says Katz.
The book charts out five steps and provides 50 tips:
• Introspection: Katz says the first step to landing a good job is to identify personal skills and strengths. “Just because it is your major, does not mean you will do well in it and it should be your career,” she says.
• Foresight: The book encourages students to envision themselves in a prospective job, taking into account the place , the organization and the benefits before applying for the job. “Young people often do not do that,” says Katz.
• Research: Katz goes into detail about how students should research jobs they are interested in. The book provides online resources that can help students, while also listing online resources that Katz considers unreliable.
• Networking: Katz says this is the most important step in a job search. “Unfortunately these days it is who you know rather than what you know,” she says. Students should explore all contacts, including personal ones. “The trick is to talk to everybody,” Katz says. “You never know who will help you get a job.” The book also provides tips on how to crack the web of online networking.
• Application process: “This is all about resumes, cover letters, using LinkedIn and other detailed information about the application process,” says Katz.
Katz also maintains a blog addressing questions and concerns about job search faced by college students.
– Devika Banerji
NC State’s Justin LeBlanc, an assistant professor at the College of Design, was one of two faculty advisors at the popular student-run Art2Wear fashion show in April, taking care of logistics that included coming up with a tent design and making sure the runway was placed correctly.
A picture from Justin LeBlanc’s “Friends and Family” photo gallery on the Project Runway website.
But LeBlanc is about to hit another runway — and in this one, he’ll appear on a national stage. LeBlanc is one of 16 contestants chosen to appear on this season’s Project Runway, the Lifetime reality show that pits up-and-coming fashion designers against one another in a series of challenges. Contestants are eliminated as the show progresses, and the winner gets prizes valued at $500,000 and a showing at New York’s Fashion Week in Lincoln Center.
For now, LeBlanc’s family and friends have had no contact with him for weeks and even his mother isn’t sure when he will return to Raleigh. “I’m a lawyer and I’m used to being able to control everything around me, but I can’t control this,” Kathy Edwards, LeBlanc’s mother says. LeBlanc’s father, Gerald LeBlanc, is head of the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at NC State.
“They keep it very hush-hush,” says Katherine Diuguid, an assistant professor at the College of Design who was the other faculty co-adviser for Art2Wear. “No one has heard from him, and I believe they confiscate ipads, iphones — you cannot have contact with anyone other than Project Runway.”
LeBlanc, who is deaf, grew up in Raleigh and received two degrees from NC State: one in architecture in 2008 and another in art and design in 2009. On his website he writes that growing up deaf has helped him develop artistically. “Throughout my life, I’ve lived in an altered state of mind,” he writes. “I was born deaf and have relied throughout my life on artificial means to provide some semblance of sound. The lack of natural hearing heightened my other senses resulting in a perception of the world that differs from that of a hearing person.’’
Diuguid says she believes that LeBlanc, a former Caldwell Fellow at NC State, has an excellent shot at winning the top prize. His architecture background gave him a strong sense of geometry, form and perspective. And he is incredibly creative with fabric, she says. “Texture is very important to Justin,” she says. “Anytime you see him, he’s got something in his hands and he’s working on it. One day he had a piece of wool, and he had rubber-banded pennies all around it. Then he boiled it so it shrank down and created this amazing coral-reef like texture.”
LeBlanc on his way to his first day of teaching at NC State.
That sort of creativity will likely serve him well in the Project Runway forum, where contestants face different design challenges each week. “It could be Heidi Klum on the red carpet — or going to a hardware store making a dress out of washers.’’ Diuguid says.
Edwards says she and her husband recently watched an episode of the show from a previous season in which the contestants were awakened at 4 a.m., sent to a workroom and told to change clothes. They were then asked to design a garment from whatever they had been wearing to sleep in.
“I looked at my husband and said, ‘I can’t believe we let him do this,’’’ Edwards says, “and my husband said, ‘I don’t think it was our choice.’’’
Edwards will have to wait to see how far her son makes it on the show, which may be in the process of taping now. In the meantime, she’d like fans to go on the Project Runway website and “like” the Facebook icon next to LeBlanc’s picture.
And LeBlanc gave a shout-out to NC State on the question-and-answer section of the Project Runway site when he was asked about his occupation, including “Go Wolfpack!” in his answer.
–Sylvia Adcock ’81
It’s not often that students in a 200-level biology class get their work displayed in a state museum. But that’s what’s happened with the detailed drawings done by the students in Jennifer Landin’s Biological Illustration class.
Landin, a teaching assistant professor who received her Ph.D. from NC State in 2011, began teaching the class in 2010. The goals of the course, along with helping students learn about the diversity of life, are to emphasize the power of observation and how drawing can enhance it. Students use pen and ink to record their observations about structures and forms as they learn about how those structures and forms evolved.
Work from Landin’s students was on exhibit earlier this year at the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island, and since May, 36 pieces have been on display at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. The detailed drawings include studies of the anatomy of a mosquito head, a comparison of two types of mushrooms, and the mechanism of toe adhesion in a gecko.
Landin says drawing skills aren’t necessary to succeed in the class. “I teach little tricks the very first week,” she says. “The important thing is getting them to observe closely.” Students who have taken the course include majors in biology and art and design and well as majors in engineering, history and English. The class started with only nine students. Today it is so popular that it fills to the maximum of 20; a second section is routinely added.
When Landin was growing up, she was torn between science and art. “I always enjoyed drawing and art and science — and then when I went to get my undergraduate degree, they didn’t allow interdisciplinary majors,” Landin says. She ended up choosing science, but put herself through graduate school by working as a graphic designer. She later got a job as a scientific illustrator at the University of Florida. At NC State, her doctoral research centered on using drawing as a tool to develop observational skills.
Landin loves the fact that biological illustrations allow students to use their art work to teach others. When they show off their portfolios and display their drawings, they also share excitement for biology.
The exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences will be up until July 31.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
Banks Talley was never a student at NC State, but there are few as influential in the development of student programs at the university than the former vice chancellor of student affairs.
A holder of three degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, Talley first came to NC State in 1951 to become the assistant dean of students. That job offer is something he remembered fondly in his interview with the Student Leadership Initiative, which is NCSU Libraries‘ archived collection of former campus leaders telling their stories on camera.
“I came over and applied for the job and ultimately I got a little handwritten note from Dean [Ed] Cloyd saying, ‘If you want the job you can have it, starting-,’ date so-and-so, salary thirty-six hundred dollars,” Talley said. “That’s the sort of thing you remember. So, here I’ve been most of my life.”
Talley worked in the university’s division for student affairs for 32 years. In that time, the arts flourished at NC State, with Talley believing more students needed to be exposed to cultural programs. He developed the Friends of the College program, which brought renowned performers like Leonard Bernstein to Raleigh. And he helped enrich and expand the arts curriculum at the university, opening it up to engineering, agriculture and textiles students.
In 1984, Talley left his post at NC State to become executive director of the N.C. Symphony Society Inc, but he made frequent returns to campus in varying capacities. The Talley Student Center bears his name.