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.”