NC State loses two alumni who helped shape the university

August 31, 2011
By Chris Saunders

NC State is mourning the loss of two distinguished alumni who went above and beyond in their support of the university. William L. “Bill” Burns Jr. ’50 of Durham died Sunday. Charlie Hoge Reynolds ’39 of Hilton Head, S.C., died last Friday.

Burns, chairman emeritus of what was once Central Carolina Bank and a Durham civic leader, played a crucial role in

Bill Burns after receiving the Watauga Medal in 1999.

Bill Burns after receiving the Watauga Medal in 1999.

NC State’s growth. He led the NC State Board of Trustees and the NC State University Foundation. He served on the UNC Board of Governors, the Wolfpack Club board of directors, the Achieve Campaign steering committee and the board of the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science.

His dedication earned him the Watauga Medal (1999), NC State’s highest non-academic honor; the Menscer Cup (2000), awarded for exemplary leadership; and a special citation from the NC State Alumni Association (2005) for alumni stewardship.

Burns and his friend, William C. Friday ’41, served as co-chairs of the Alumni Association Campaign for Excellence. They made a persuasive pair who convinced other graduates of NC State’s need for a “stately” alumni home reflective of the university’s size and stature. The resulting Dorothy and Roy Park Alumni Center on Centennial Campus became a place that draws graduates back for reunions and gatherings.

Dedicated to rethinking education around the state, Burns and his wife, Dottie, made contributions toward the construction of the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation on NC State’s Centennial Campus. The institute aims to foster a collaborative environment where teachers from around the state can brainstorm effective teaching strategies while employing the latest technology in their classrooms.

“He was the kind of man who wanted to see NC State excel in everything,” says Friday. “He said the strength of higher education had to reside in the classroom with the teacher. …I’ve been watching alumni ever since I left NC State in 1941, and I have never known one more dedicated, more self-giving and more earnest about the institution than Bill.”

Charles Reynolds in State College News, July, 1962.

Charles Reynolds in State College News, July, 1962.

Charles Reynolds, president of the Alumni Association in the early 1960s, played a significant role in opposing NC State’s name change to the University of North Carolina at Raleigh. As reported in Alice Elizabeth Reagan’s North Carolina State: A Narrative History, faculty favored the idea of dropping the name of State College for North Carolina State University. There was even a push from the Alumni Association to add the designation of “university” to the name.

However, supporters of the consolidated university system and Gov. Terry Sanford wanted a change of their own. They believed the name “the University of North Carolina at Raleigh” would unify the schools. Reynolds led a charge to voice loud protest and reject the name of UNC-Raleigh. A battle ensued for two years, and in July 1965, NC State received its official name of North Carolina State University.

Reynolds’ efforts earned him the Alumni Association’s Meritorious Service Award in 1968 and the NC State’s Watauga Medal in 1980. Reynolds was a member of the L.L. Polk Lifetime Giving Society.

The Rutherfordton native was also president and CEO of Spindale Mills in Spindale and of Cherokee Mills in Sevierville, Tenn.

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