NC State History Category
Few writers are as celebrated for cutting to the core of writing about the South as Flannery O’Connor. The novels and short story collections she released throughout the 1950s and ’60s, like Wise Blood and A Good Man Is Hard to Find, are hailed as masterpieces for their narratives decorated with Southern Gothic gold and are pretty much required reading in any college introductory literature course.
And on this day in 1962, O’Connor brought her weird Southern world to campus, delivering a lecture on the famed trait she assigned many of her protagonists — “the grotesque.” She appeared as a part of the Contemporary Scene Series.
The Savannah, Ga., native used grotesque trait to underscore how certain characters didn’t fit into the settings about which she wrote. “The grotesque in Southern Literature,” she told the College Union crowd, “stems from the fact that the Southerner is still able to recognize freaks.”
An article in The Technician reported that O’Connor went on to link the South’s recognition of freaks with the region’s emphasis on religion. “Where there is theological thought, she stated, there is more motivation to describe a situation than explain it,” the newspaper reported.
But whereas many of her characters’ grotesqueness prevented them from accepting certain truths about themselves and alienated them from the rest of society in her stories, O’Connor held steadfast to the notion that American literature needed more of them.
“She also expressed the worry,” The Technician reported, ”that in twenty years the South will stop having its grotesque characters and will be filled with men in grey flannel suits.”
O’Connor died two years later as a result of complications from lupus.
There was a bit of a problem with spelling, but then maybe the writer was just hungry.
On this day in 1974, the Technician had a front-page story announcing that “Roy Kroc” (His first name was actually Ray), was bringing his famous McDonald’s hamburgers to NC State. (In the story, it was spelled “MacDonald’s.”)
The story said that a McDonald’s franchise was scheduled to open in the Student Center in the fall. The hamburger chain, with its Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, would replaced a snack bar and deli that were on the first floor of the student center.
The deal called for University Food Services to get 15 percent of the revenue and Kroc pledged to hire students when possible.
Augustus Witherspoon was a pioneer at NC State. He was the second African-American to earn a Ph.D. from NC State (he also earned a master’s at NC State) and the first African-American professor (of botany) to work at the university. He would later go on to become associate dean of the graduate school and the associate provost for African-American affairs.
So it was fitting that on this day in 1995, the Student Center Annex was renamed the Witherspoon Student Center in honor of Witherspoon.
“He was like a father figure to many students,” Tracey Avery, president of the student center, said in a story in the Technician. “He served as an inspiration for the future generation.”
The Witherspoon Student Center was built in 1990, and initially provided offices for student government and campus publications. It now houses the NC State African American Cultural Center.
Student disenchantment with U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was typically most visible through protests staged on college campuses. But anti-war sentiment could also be seen in a decrease in the number of students who took part in ROTC.
That was certainly true at NC State. On this day in 1971, the Technician reported that enrollment in ROTC programs at NC State had dropped significantly from the previous year. Col. William Boylston, who was in charge of Army ROTC at NC State, said enrollment was down 15-20 percent from the previous year. Col. O.T. Reeves, head of Air Force ROTC, also said enrollment was down (although he did not provide specific numbers).
Boylston and Reeves attributed the drop to an anti-military feeling on college campuses, although they indicated that those feelings may not have been as deep at NC State.
“We are a very obvious target because of Vietnam,” Boylston said. “It has some influence here at State, although there is not a great anti-military feeling here. We can’t say for sure how much influence it has had.”
One of the more scandalous would-be visitors in NC State’s history was Playboy model June Wilkinson. The pin-up girl was set to appear on campus in 1962, but the appearance was axed on this day 52 years ago.
The reason why was never totally revealed. According to The Technician, Wilkinson’s appearance was canceled due to one of two reasons. Either school administrators feared she would create too much “havoc” with the anticipated number of young men that would come to see her, or there simply was not room given that Gov. Terry Sanford was scheduled to appear on the same day.
Some even implied it might have been a matter of one not measuring up to the other. “June Wilkinson, allegedly 42-21-39 (?), lost the chance to appear on the State College campus Saturday to Governor Sanford (measurements unknown),” read the lead in The Technician‘s article about Wilkinson’s failed appearance.
However, Wilkinson kept her promise to appear and showed up at the Western Lanes bowling alley for autographs the following Saturday.
Phillip Scott seemingly had a winning platform back in March of 1972 when he was running for student body president and appealed more to those who were the life of the party than to any political one.
He proposed a system wherein food stamps could be converted to beer stamps that could be redeemed at the student union, and he promised that the parking gates on campus would be replaced with cattle guards to keep the coeds in and enable the men on campus to “run free.” And the Technician reported that he vowed to “clean up the thermal air pollution from the English department.”
Scott had seen a similar strategy two years earlier when Eric Plow used humor in a bid that nearly got him elected president. But at least Plow was a real person.
On this day 42 years ago, the Technician ran a story that Philip Scott and his entire campaign was a fake, which trumped even a story about sweeping changes to dorm policies on campus (that story is the one the accompanying picture refers to).
The article reported that an investigation into Scott’s campaign had yielded the discovery that the address he had provided when he filed to run did not exist. He provided no phone number. And he didn’t appear to be listed in any student records in the registrar’s office.
Scott was disqualified for not being real, a requirement under student law. But the mystery continued as there was at least some temporary realness to myth.
“It is known however, that someone going by the name of Philip A. Scott has been seen around campus for at least the last two weeks,” the article read. “He did file as a candidate, was present at an all-candidates meeting … and submitted a campaign statement to the Technician this weekend.”
The student body and university administration had been engaged in a two year pickle of a situation in the early 1970s concerning student food choice on campus.
Sandwiched in that debate was a “general dissatisfaction” among students with only having one option of packaged hoagies, according to the Technician.
NC State’s big cheese, Chancellor John T. Caldwell, told students that he was open to suggestions from student leaders about sandwich suppliers other than ARA (Slater) Services, the lone sandwich supplier on campus.
Two committees made recommendations to him, and on this day in 1972, NC State’s administration announced student stores could change sandwich providers.
“The guidelines said, in part, that the Supply Store can implement changes based on negotiations with area sandwich suppliers,” the Technician reported. “The choice of supplier would be based on the company or companies which can supply the campus with the highest quality sandwiches at the lowest possible price. The guidelines would allow all sandwich suppliers to negotiate for a contract on an equal basis.”
Photo courtesy of the Technician.
Adlai Stevenson was born with aspirations in his blood to one day live in the White House. His father, also named Adlai Stevenson, was Grover Cleveland’s vice president from 1893 to 1897.
So Stevenson the second spent much of his adult life trying to reach the highest levels of U.S. politics. He built on a successful career as a lawyer and served as assistants to the secretary of the Navy and to the secretary of state. He was elected governor in Illinois, serving a four-year term beginning in 1949.
And he ran for president as the Democratic candidate in 1952 and 1956, losing to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower both times.
After those losses, President John F. Kennedy appointed Stevenson to be ambassador and chief of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in 1961.
Stevenson was serving in that capacity on this day in 1962 when he kicked off a new series of speakers, known as the Harrelson Lectures, at NC State.
For much of his talk, Stevenson found himself having to defend the role the United Nations played in the world. He conceded that the United Nations lacked some power but that it was not a weak body. He also said the U.N. was “full of conflicts and contradictions,” according to The Technician, but that is “what the U.N. was built for — to overcome conflict, to keep from exploding into war, and ultimately to tame it into something like a true community.”
It was the 1960s and the newly organized School of Physical Sciences and Applied Math was growing so much so that it needed more space for its Department of Physics.
And on this day in 1962 NC State administrators announced that the physics department would get a new home.
“The modern structure, slated for completion in the middle of 1963, will enclose approximately 64,000 square feet of laboratory and office space, and it will be completely air conditioned,” read the administration’s statement in The Technician that year. The building’s plans promised a six-story facility to be built behind Harrelson Hall and be utilized for general lab space for undergraduate and graduate physics students. Lectures were still going to be held in Harrelson. And the new building was set to also host the Department of Experimental Statistics.
The proposed physics building in 1962. Photo courtesy of NCSU Libraries.
The building was constructed and eventually became what is now known as Cox Hall. It was named for Gertrude Mary Cox, a statistics expert and the first woman to be a full professor and department head at NC State. She was hired to begin the Department of Experimental Statistics here.
Some 25 years after she captured the attention of the world by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks visited NC State to talk about the civil rights movement.
And on this day in 1981, a crowd of about 200 people gave Parks a standing ovation as she came onstage at Stewart Theatre.
Parks told the crowd that while much progress had been made, the civil rights movement needed to continue. “It is up to you and all of us to do our part to make this the great nation it was intended to be,” she said, according to an account of the speech in the Technician.
Parks said her arrest led others to rise up against racial oppression. “Just as I was against being mistreated, pushed around and denied an equal opportunity as a passenger on the bus,” she said, “so were many other people in Montgomery provided an incentive to not be pushed around.”
The civil rights movement succeeded, Parks said, because it captured the attention of people around the world. But she said that the effort needed to continue. She said that while there had been progress in areas such as public transportation and accommodations, racial segregation was still a problem in employment.
“Many are still unemployed in all parts of the country,” she said. “So we still have much to do.”