NC State People Category
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.
Rudolph “Rudy” Pate grew up on a tobacco farm in Robeson County, where he learned about the plowing, curing and harvesting of tobacco. He was active in the 4-H, serving as president of the Robeson County Council of 4-H Clubs and winning the county corn championship one year.
But as the valedictorian at Barker Ten Mile High School (so named because it sat halfway between the Barker Methodist Church and the Ten Mile Baptist Church), Pate wanted to write. He had covered the local beat for The Robesonian, the local newspaper in Lumberton, in addition to his farm duties and a part-time job at the Robeson County Cold Storage Company. Pate also knew he wanted to go to NC State, even though it didn’t have a journalism school to help him become a writer.
In the end, it didn’t matter. After graduating from NC State in 1943 with a degree in agricultural education, Pate was was able to combine his knack for storytelling with his love for NC State to become the man in charge of telling the university’s story. As the longtime head of the university’s Office of Information Services and then the university’s vice chancellor for foundations and university relations, Pate was known throughout North Carolina as the man who always had a good tale to tell about NC State and its people.
Pate, who served NC State for a total of 35 years, died Tuesday. He was 93.
“The biggest thrill in my work has been to see NCSU, in my lifetime, grow from a small land grant college to one of America’s 25 top public research universities — an amazing accomplishment,” Pate wrote after he retired from NC State in 1985.
A story in the Alumni Association’s magazine following his retirement described Pate as a “grinning Robeson County farm boy” who knew how to promote his beloved university with homespun stories. The story quoted an unnamed university benefactor talking about his experience with Pate: “I had some money in my pocket once. Got to missing it and thought someone had stolen it. Come to find out, Rudy had talked me out of it.”
But no matter how Pate was described, the story said, most people considered Pate a friend and treasured “the good humor that radiates from him like warmth from a cozy stove. And if, in the glow of a shared laugh, he begins to talk about the important contributions of North Carolina State University, most people find themselves persuaded.”
During his years as a student at NC State, Pate worked in the College News Bureau and wrote for the Technician and The Wataugan, a campus humor and literary magazine. During his senior year, Pate was editor of The Agriculturist, a magazine published by students in the School of Agriculture. He was a member of the YMCA Cabinet, the Student Government Council and Golden Chain, the university’s top honor society.
Upon graduation, Pate went to work as an agriculture teacher at his old high school. It wasn’t long, though, before he felt the pull back to NC State. Within a few months, Pate returned to work at the College News Bureau. A few years later, Pate returned home to Lumberton when The Robesonian offered him a job as city editor. Five months later, Chancellor John Harrelson traveled to Lumberton to convince Pate to come back to NC State, according to a 1952 story in The News & Observer naming Pate “Tar Heel of the Week.”
Pate would go on to serve 19 years as director of the State College News Bureau and 16 years as head of the university’s development and public relations efforts. Between those two periods, he served as associate director of the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta and as assistant to UNC President William Friday, a friend from their days as students at NC State.
Pate was well respected by reporters and editors throughout North Carolina, in part because of his willingness to deal with them on unfavorable stories about the university as well as those that told of the university’s accomplishments.
The “Tar Heel of the Week” story about Pate summarized his philosophy on negative stories: “The quicker you get them over with, the better. Get out all the truth as quickly as possible. That means fewer stories, and the story will die and be forgotten more quickly.”
But Pate loved to tell of the university’s many achievements, even if it required extra reading at home to make sure he understood the work being done in areas such as nuclear physics engineering. He would then write stories about NC State on his Royal typewriter (he employed the hunt-and-peck method with his two pointer fingers.).
Pate’s wife, Paige, also did her part to promote the university — even if it meant resorting to a bit of superstition. In 1967, The Raleigh Times told the story of a red-and-white herringbone skirt that she wore when NC State played Duke in football. The team won three straight years against Duke when Pate wore the lucky skirt. “I’m real happy State won Saturday, but I’m more inclined to think it was because of Earle Edwards and the boys and not my skirt,” she told the newspaper.
During his years at NC State, Pate chaired the committee that created the Watauga Medal and was a member of the committee that created the plans for creating the University of North Carolina Television Network. Private donations to the university and its foundations increased from $1.3 million a year to $6.8 million a year in 1984, according to an account at the time of his retirement.
Even in retirement, Pate continued to serve the university. He was a consultant in the construction of the Park Alumni Center, home of the Alumni Association, on Centennial Campus. His daughter, Mary Paige, and her husband, Bill Murray, are both graduates of NC State.
“NCSU provided ‘a window to the world’ for me, as a student, and opened up the doors for me,” Pate wrote upon his retirement. “With the help of many fine people (and especially Paige), I was able to walk through those doors and proceed to this point in my life. I will, therefore, always be indebted to the University for its guidance and inspiration and hope, in some minor manner, to be able to continue to assist it.”
Pate, who lived in Georgetown, S.C., is survived by his daughter, Mary Paige Murray, son-in-law, Bill Murray, of Georgetown, S.C., his granddaughter, Cameron Kelly, her husband, Chad Kelly, of Raleigh, and brother and sister-in-law, Eugene and Phyllis Pate of Lumberton, N.C.
The family will receive visitors at 1 p.m. Friday at Mitchell Funeral home, 7209 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh. Funeral services will follow at 2 p.m. Interment will be at Raleigh Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Rudolph Pate Endowment, N.C. State Alumni Association, attn: Becky Bumgardner, Office of University Development, Campus Box 7501, Raleigh, N.C., 27695-7501 or Tidelands Hospice, 2591 N. Fraser St., Georgetown, S.C., 29440.
The Wolfpack has lost a dear friend and one of its most ardent supporters, as Frank Weedon, a former NC State senior associate director of athletics, has died.
Weedon, a native of Washington, D.C., held several posts in the athletics department and did just about anything imaginable to help Wolfpack athletics flourish.
After graduating from the University of Maryland and serving for three years in the U.S. Army, Weedon joined NC State in 1960 as the department’s sports information director, a post he held for 12 years. He became an assistant athletics director and then a senior athletics director in an administrative career that spanned 23 years.
He was a fixture at NC State sporting events. He was the mind behind listing NC State basketball legend Tommy Burleson’s height at 7-foot-4, making him more of a headline as the tallest player in the country, even though Burleson was closer to 7-foot-2. He was the one who suggested Kay Yow’s name when Willis Casey wanted to hire the first woman to coach in women’s athletics at NC State. Weedon once even collected a technical foul at a Wolfpack basketball game. And he created the Wolfpack Radio Network so fans across the state could tune in to listen to games.
Even though he retired from the university in 1995, Weedon remained heavily involved in athletics. He became the keeper of Wolfpack sports history, gathering memorabilia for the Hall of Champions inside the Murphy Center.
Weedon, who was 82, had been declining in health in recent years, the News & Observer reported today.
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.”
Photo by Kevin Jones, USA Baseball.
NC State baseball pitching phenom Carlos Rodon spent his summer doing what comes naturally — playing baseball.
But he, along with teammate Trea Turner, traded in his Wolfpack jersey for the red, white and blue colors of the USA Baseball National Collegiate team.
“It’s more baseball and you use it to get better,” Rodon says of his past two months on the team that went 20-3 including exhibition games against Coastal Plain League teams, a trip through Japan and a five-game sweep of Cuba back in the U.S. “You get to represent your country. And who doesn’t like playing baseball?”
Rodon went 3-0 with the team, pitching two dominant victories in the Cuba series, the second one coming July 23 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. It’s a place where Rodon shined against UNC in the ACC tournament in May. He had 11 strikeouts in his last performance against Cuba. “I wouldn’t say the park does it,” Rodon says of his dominance at the DBAP, “but I love playing there.”
Future opponents of Rodon might fear his involvement in international competition more than those he just finished striking out. That’s because the Wolfpack junior feels he came out of the experience with another pitch in his repertoire going into next season. “I worked on my change-up and found a lot of command,” he says. “It’s just another pitch I can add to my arsenal.”
Former Student Body President Norris Tolson likes to kid fellow Wolfpacker Jim Hunt about the former governor’s knack for politics even before he ran for state office.
“He had a machine long before he became a politician in state government,” Tolson, a 1962 graduate of NC State, said in an interview with the Student Leadership Initiative. The NCSU Libraries project chronicles former student leaders’ time on campus. “He had a machine at NC State so a lot of us who had been in [Future Farmers of America] were recruited into the Governor Hunt machine when he was at NC State.”
Tolson talked about how an emphasis on leadership in his high school experience in Pinetops, N.C., led to a seamless transition into influential roles when he arrived at what he called “the big city.” “So I got very involved early on and it just became a way of life,” Tolson said. “I enjoyed it, I enjoy that, I still enjoy being involved in policy making.”
That involvement in policy-making has always come easy for Tolson, who serves on the NC State Board of Trustees and the Alumni Association’s board of directors. He’s also worked in state government and is the president and CEO of the N.C. Biotechnology Center, a nonprofit funded by the state to accelerate commercialization of science and technology coming from the university and private researchers.
In Tolson’s five interviews with the Student Leadership Initiative, he discussed how campus leadership forces student participants to balance service with their schoolwork. And he stressed the importance of the university’s honor code during his time on campus.
“That was in the day when you violated the rules you got kicked out,” he said. “You didn’t get mollycoddled or you didn’t get pampered. You were kicked out of school, and that was a very serious offense for a young person at NC State.”
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.
Curtis Dail, a long and devoted supporter of NC State University who made significant contributions to Wolfpack athletics, has died.
Dail, who was 85, and his wife of more than 50 years, Jackie, were Wolfpack fans despite never having attended NC State. Campus athletic facilities prospered thanks to more than $10 million in donations by the Dails over the years. Their names appear on the Curtis & Jacqueline Dail Basketball Complex at the Weisiger-Brown Athletics Facility, the Dail Plaza at Carter-Finley Stadium, Dail Club at Vaughn Towers, a football practice complex and an outdoor tennis stadium.
“He’s one of the men I most admired at NC State,” says Wolfpack Club Executive Director Bobby Purcell. “He cared deeply about his church, family, community and NC State. If you were a friend of Curtis, you were a friend forever.”
Jackie and Curtis Dail in 2007.
Originally from Cumberland County, Dail grew up on a tobacco and cotton farm with nine siblings. He received a partial scholarship to play basketball and baseball at East Carolina University, but he didn’t have the money to pay for the rest of his college expenses. He was drafted by the Army, where he spent three years as a jumper with the 101st Airborne.
After a series of jobs, Dail finally hit upon the business in 1975 that would define him — in the fast food industry. That year, he bought a half-share in two Hardee’s fast-food restaurants in Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh. According to a 2007 article in NC State magazine, Dail would go on to own 24 Hardee’s across North and South Carolina before selling the restaurants in the late 1980s to shift his focus to real estate.
Dail’s allegiance to NC State was secured during an encounter in Fayetteville, N.C. Dail refereed high school and college basketball games there that legendary Wolfpack basketball coach Everett Case would visit annually.
“Case would bring his squad to Fayetteville every year to go over rules changes with the referees,” Dail said in the 2007 article. “I really respected the commitment he had to educating both his players and all of us, and I’ve been a State fan ever since.”
The Dails funded athletic scholarships through the Wolfpack Club, and Curtis served on its board of directors. They also named the grand reception room in the Park Alumni Center on Centennial Campus. Curtis and Jackie Dail were named as Honorable Alumnus and Alumna by the Alumni Association in 2006.
There will be a visitation for Curtis today, May 30, from 6-8 p.m. at the Bryan-Lee Funeral Home in Garner, N.C. His funeral will be held Friday, May 31, at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Garner.
For a leader who was NC State’s first female student body president, it’s a bit odd to hear Cathy Sterling say she can’t exactly remember why she got involved in student government. She said in an interview for NCSU Libraries’ Student Leadership Initiative, a project showcasing former Wolfpack student leaders, that she had never really been involved in student government and had always viewed it as nothing more than something North Carolina governors had on their résumés.
But then 1970 happened, and people wanted some change to the status quo on campus.
“It was a just a period of time when people were like, ‘We need a change,’ like that and ‘Why don’t you do that?’ and I’m like, well, okay,” Sterling said.
One of Sterling’s chief concerns was the administration’s use of student fees. She saw leaders directing money to programs like the Friends of the College concert series, but doing so without seeking any input from the students. So she felt compelled to make that a focus in her administration after she won as a write-in candidate in 1970.
But she would be confronted with push back to her historic election. “I was really naive about hostility,” she said in the interview. “I was raised in a religion that was very gentle and very loving and very positive, so it was like a bath in cold water to look at somebody and go, ‘But you don’t like me just because of the opinion I hold. I mean you really, really don’t like me. You’re really angry at me?’”
Sterling talked about how she dealt with such emotions in her interviews with the Student Leadership Initiative. She also talked about how she saw the student union’s mission transform and how she transferred to NC State after a disastrous freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill as a music major.
“I didn’t know music theory,” she said, “and I look back and I think who in the world thought this was a good idea? Someday, I’ll write it up because it was the classic freshman experience of everything going wrong.”
Shawn Rychcik grew up wanting to play for the New York Yankees. But that didn’t happen because he traded in baseball for fastpitch softball, a sport in which Rychcik (pronounced “RI-check”) had a storied career as a member of the U.S. men’s national team from 1994-2002. He was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete of the Year in men’s softball in 1999 and 2000.
He took that success and rolled it over into a career coaching collegiate women’s softball, serving as head coach the last eight seasons at Boston University, where he led the Terriers to the NCAA Regionals and the America East Conference championship three of the last four years.
Rychcik’s pedigree as a player and coach breeds a self-assurance of inevitable success for Wolfpack softball as the team prepares for the ACC tournament, held May 10-12 in Tallahassee, Fla. NC State magazine sat down with him and learned that Rychcik entertains no other option.
Why he was a successful player: I was a really good hitter and smart player. I hit quite a few home runs in my day. I could run. I could throw. I could hit for power. I could hit for average. I wanted to be the best. If I didn’t hit .400 or .500 on a weekend, I was back at it on Monday afternoon.
Why he’s a successful coach: I’ve been on the national team and a part of world championships. And that’s the standard for myself. I know how to get there. …We were talking as a team [in the fall], and I said, “We’ll be better. We’ll be better because I’m here. Period. I’m here. I win.”
The style of his teams: I like to trust my teams to hit. I want to see if we can swing. Run and hit, trying to keep the pressure on. And, defensively, the plan is not to give anyone extra bases, extra runs. Get the ball back to the pitcher, and let the pitcher get the outs.
On coming from Boston to Raleigh: I think things move at a little slower pace than I’m used to in Boston. It’s probably how I like it and how I grew up [in New York state], but I’ve been away from it for ten years, especially living in Boston. I think that city hardens you.
What drives him: Being somebody was an expectation of myself. …My dad told me there’s a lot of good players out there. But how many great players are out there? So I was fueled by wanting to be more than just a good player. I knew to separate myself from people, I had to be great at something. The next step for me here is to be a great coach.