Memories: Alum share how NC State transformed them

January 31, 2013
By Bill Krueger

When we put together our special 125th anniversary issue of NC State magazine, we asked readers to tell us how NC State has transformed their lives. We got so many responses we couldn’t print them all. You can read many of them in the winter issue of the magazine, and here are some of the ones we didn’t have room for. Feel free to add your own memories.

A Proposal at Reynolds
How do you tell just one story about a place that has meant so much to me? It is the place that I forged lifelong friendships. It is where I started to learn that I was better at classes like public speaking and not math. Joining a fraternity seemed like the last thing I wanted to think about. But had I not I would not have been able to be a part of something so great. We lost one of our best friends, and worked so hard to honor him with a scholarship that will continue for many years to come.

My heart found love. Got broken. Looked again for love…and if not for NC State, I would not have found Rose (Grabner ‘95), the love of my life! We come back to reconnect with friends almost every fall and winter at football games and gymnastics meets. I even asked Rose to marry me at the “Sweetheart Meet” in Reynolds Coliseum. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of the Wolfpack family! I have the best of friends, a career and the woman of my dreams. She has blessed me with two wonderful daughters… And we all bleed Wolfpack RED!

—Zach Myers ’97

Speaking in Public
When I enrolled in engineering at NC State, I thought I was safe from any writing or speaking classes. As a shy high school student nothing was more intimidating than speaking before my small class. I was surprised when I learned that public speaking was a required course for an engineering major.

Professor Baker Wynn taught public speaking and business communication. While none of us were willing participants, he got us started on what had been viewed as a distasteful but required subject. Our transition was not immediate but by the end of the quarter we were not so fearful of being in front of our classmates. We also were starting to learn how to be persuasive in speaking or writing. Good oral or written communication is an important part of most people’s success. In later years I found myself making presentations in 50 countries to both small and large groups of decision-makers. The groundwork Professor Wynn laid was one of the most important things I learned at NC State.

—Ed Morton ’56

Finding Balance
When I was a freshman, I had been hanging out with a friend in University Towers and was walking back to my dorm (Turlington) late one night, most likely past midnight.  It was very cold and we were hoping for snow the next day. As I was walking by Tucker Beach, I noticed some people playing ultimate Frisbee. Some of them (who turned out to be friends I had recently made) got a good look at me and called me over to play. There were probably 15 people total playing. The people I didn’t know were very welcoming, and it was just such a fun and random experience. That moment definitely made me feel like NC State was a warm and welcoming family, even on a cold night.

Overall, NC State taught me about life balance. I am so lucky for my wonderful experience there, and I think that it plays a large part in how happy I am with my current life. I majored in chemistry, worked for the university at the NC State Annual Giving from my spring sophomore semester until I graduated, and had a very active social life. I am happy to say that I succeeded in all three facets. I graduated in four years in a very difficult major with a 3.2 GPA and made the dean’s list a few semesters. I loved working to help raise money for the university, and was promoted to help coach other callers while I was there. I was very happy with my group of friends and was still actively making new friends my senior year. I also won a seat as a student senator for PAMS going into my senior year, and became a very avid reader, something that still surprises my parents considering I never read for pleasure growing up.

I’ve been proud of keeping that balance since my time at NC State. I am very passionate about the things I do, and I always do them to the best of my ability, but I understand the importance of not forgetting the other parts of life along the way. It was crucial for my wife and I to keep some balance during the months leading up to our recent wedding so that we didn’t drive each other crazy. Balance and organization has also enabled be to become more involved with NC State by creating time to be a network leader for our small but dedicated alumni group here in Austin, Texas. Our group has had a lot of fun over the past year and I look forward to dedicating more time to developing what we have created so far.

I can’t imagine my life without my experiences at NC State, and am very proud and grateful for my time there.

—Taylor Cooke ’04

memoriesFriendly Competition
Here’s a picture of nine girls and four guys who graduated from NC State in 1970, 1971 and 1972.  We spent the weekend of Aug. 4, 2012, in Manteo, N.C., having our own Olympic opening ceremony and game competitions. We even had Olympic T-shirts made for the occasion.  We were very fortunate that our paths crossed in the late 1960s — and we have all remained friends since then.

—Margaret Seymore ’71

Practical Professors
I enjoyed my time at the College of Forest Resources. Dr. Donald Steensen taught me to take time to evaluate a problem and look for the best and most efficient way to solve it.  Dr. Larry Jervis gave me some good hands-on experience. Dr. Maurice Farrier was terrifying in public, but very personable in private — and that taught me to be careful not to always judge people on first impressions. A great experience!

—Thaddeus Banks ’81

Teaching a Teacher
I was able to get a master’s in education with a focus on marketing and business education. What I learned helped me be a better teacher and DECA Advisor.

—John D. Boothe ’04 MR

An Agricultural Education
NC State has been a big player in my success in agriculture. After graduating I went to work for Middle Creek Farms, where I helped in the spraying of crops and other day-to-day operations. In 2008 I had a chance to go to work for Crop Production Services, and currently I am a consultant at Crop Production Services. I call on a lot of resources at the university on a daily basis. NC State taught me a lot.

—Joshua Scott Latham ’05 AGI

A Lasting Impact
NC State has made a lasting impact on my life. I would not be where I am today without the help of some amazing professors who became mentors and are there for me even now. NC State is a great community and is a place that will always be special to me.

—Amanda Birman ’12

Lessons from Kay Yow
My personal history with NC State began when I was 10 years old. I convinced my parents to send me to Kay Yow’s summer basketball camp, and there I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Coach Yow and her amazing staff. I quickly learned the “game of life” was about much more than basketball. I was “transformed” by being exposed to ways of looking at life through Coach Yow’s lens with regards to sportsmanship, leadership and spirituality. She instilled a winning attitude in everyone she coached. As I went on to my undergraduate and graduate studies, and eventually becoming an entrepreneur, I am grateful for my time with Coach Yow.

I attended the Yow camps many times in my adolescent years. Little did I know that I would wind up doing my graduate work at NC State…and eventually working here. In 1987, I was working at my undergraduate alma mater, Elon University, as a designer in the communications office. I loved my job, yet I felt I needed to know more. I needed to study design, not just learn on the job. I began to research various schools and programs across the country. One day, someone said to me, “Have you looked at NC State’s design school? They’re supposed to have one of the best programs in the nation.” I have to admit, I was surprised. A land-grant university full of vets and engineers had a renowned design program? I called the School of Design [before it was the College of Design] and set up an appointment to visit. The second I set foot in Brooks Hall and saw all the students’ amazing work surrounding the galleries and studios, I was sold. I knew I was in the right place. I finished my master’s in graphic and product design and went on to run my own branding/interactive media firm, NIXdesign, in a renovated downtown Raleigh loft for over 18 years.

In addition to our international roster of clients, we worked with many of the university’s colleges and organizations to provide branding, design and interactive media, and I even had the opportunity to play a role in the development of the university’s core brand that exists today. A year and a half ago, a new opportunity presented itself and it was the right time in my life to take it. I am now the director of Marketing Communications at the College of Design and the associate professor of the practice.

NC State University means so many different things to me as I have experienced it at various and key points in my life. I have so much respect for this institution. It is “gritty” and authentic, and the research and innovation that comes from this university is unparalleled. NC State has helped shape my core values, provided me with a world-class education and is a great place to be employed. I believe in the integrity and value of this university and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the collective effort to transform its future.

And… we beat Duke and UNC!!

—Carol Fountain Nix ’91 MS

A Happier Me
I couldn’t believe how much NC State felt like home as soon as I unpacked the first box from my car. Everything here is exactly what I need to be a happier me.

—Tiffany Runyan ’16 (alum to be!)

A Smart Choice
I grew up a Duke fan (I know, I know, just read the whole thing). I had no family connections with Duke, but my best friend was a Duke sports fan. So, in the absence of another persuasive influence, the void was filled with dark blue. When it came time to choose a university, Duke was my top choice. NC State was my backup. Then something changed — I discovered the Park Scholarship. My first visit to NC State –the “backup school” — suddenly turned into a serious examination of an opportunity I didn’t know existed. The campus was alive with a sense of excitement and innovation. The students and faculty were warm and inviting. I could sense that NC State merited serious consideration, and its status as my backup school was in serious jeopardy.

Of course, NC State won me over. My undergraduate education was literally everything I’d hoped it would be. I was fortunate to spread my learning opportunities across campus, with my majors taking me to PAMS (BA, Chemistry) and to the College of Education (BS, Secondary Education, Comprehensive Science Concentration), and my minors taking me to the Music Department (Saxophone Performance) and the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures (Spanish). These diverse experiences prepared me very well for my next step, medical school, and eventually a residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at UNC-Chapel Hill. Yet despite continuing my education elsewhere, my NC State roots and the resultant immersion in an environment of innovation and discovery have changed my perspective of healthcare. While I didn’t earn a degree in computer science, the mobile health trend became apparent to me very early. In January 2010 I released UNC Housestaff, a simple application to help physicians across the hospital stay connected with patients and data that would improve their ability to practice medicine. This subsequently led the establishment of a small but successful app company, G-Whizz! Apps, and my continued interest in the burgeoning field of medical informatics.

Not only did my time at NC State yield a quality education, it also changed the entire trajectory of my life. From music to medicine and education to innovation, my perspectives were forever changed by my experiences there – experiences that I’ve been able to share with my wonderful wife, Kim Bloomfield ’02, and my daughters, Miriam and Catherine (both Class of 2028).

Many years have passed since I applied to NC State as my “backup school” and I’ve often considered where I would be had I made a different decision. Would I have had the opportunity to personally care for a sick child? Would I have had the opportunity to improve care for thousands through improvements to electronic health records?  Would I have reached millions through mobile technology? I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out. I chose NC State, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

—Ricky Bloomfield, ’04

A Direction for Life

I entered the School of Forestry in September 1953, graduated in 1957, came back to get a master’s in ’62, and a PhD in forest genetics in 1964. During that time, I met and married a “Meredith Angel.” Next month we will celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary with three daughters and three grandchildren. My education set the direction for my career in forest research and management for the next 48 years. For the past 10 years, however, I have enjoyed frequent visits to NC State’s campus to the woodshop in the Craft Center. My education at NC State was definitely life transforming, and my time in the woodshop at the Craft Center has been life preserving.

—Charles D. Webb ’57, ’62 MS, ’64 PHD

Setting a High Standard
Several memories come to mind, but I will always recall the counseling I received from professors like Dr. Tom Shore, Dr. Farmer Smith, Dr. Betty Wilcox, Dr. Gary Moore, and Dr. Joe Clary. They were so patient, kind, and available. After completing my MEd, I was employed as an adjunct to teach methods courses in the schools of Psychology and Education. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with adults and to observe natural teaching talents in so many of our fine North Carolina teachers. NC State faculty and staff were always my support base as an educator. They set a high standard and helped me to accomplish my very best.

—Nancy Langley Raynor ’84 MED

Never Give Up

NC State helped me in so many ways. From the lifelong friends I met, to the realization that anything is possible if I put my mind to it. Jimmy V taught me about never giving up! It’s helped me a lot through the years.

—Mike Piper ’82

Go Pack, Always

I came to NC State a somewhat shy, non-participatory student. I worked in food service below the D.H. Hill library and made awesome fish fillet sandwiches! I was given the opportunity to join a fraternity — Sigma Nu. I remember the night some brothers came to the food service area and said, “You have a pledge meeting tonight.” I had no idea what to expect, but I went. I met lifelong friends at Sigma Nu. We did floats for homecoming, one that we built on top of a car (way before “Animal House”), and we won the Homecoming contest that year. (I think it was 1977.) We held Christmas at our house for underprivileged children, participated in an all night dance-a-thon with then-mayor Isabella Cannon and had some great dancing and parties at our house after every football game! I grew into an outgoing student and extrovert. I held leadership roles within the fraternity, played a multitude of sports and after graduation a fraternity brother helped lead me into the career I have today. I am very thankful to have been at NC State. I have been a member of the Wolfpack Club for 30-plus years now and attend all home football and basketball games, cheering loudly and proudly for the Wolfpack! Now, both my children are NC State graduates, one in 2011, one in 2012. I am blessed to have loved NC State since my youth. I am blessed to have raised my children to love NC State. I am thankful to be a lifelong Sigma Nu and have had all the experiences that have brought me to where I am today. We have the best fans, the best administrators, and a strong Wolfpack Club that I truly value more with each passing year. I can sum up my feeling for NC State: GO PACK, Always!

—Braxton Wesley Smith ’79

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